2003, 2004, 2005 & 2006: Named one
of the 101 best Web sites for writers by Writers Digest Magazine.
Question: You have an impressive portfolio of published articles, short stories, reviews, columns, non-fiction and fiction books, essays and poems. Congratulations! How long have you been a writer?
Dawn Colclasure: Thank you! Iíve been writing since childhood. It was my grandmother who took notice and suggested I write her a story whenever I visited. This set me on the path to REALLY start writing instead of just dabbling here and there. I was 11 when my first poem got published and I spent a large chunk of my high school years sitting at the table during lunchtime, writing stories. My teachers and classmates often read my short stories in class and I was always encouraged to write an essay or short story here and there. Even in college, when my grades in certain classes suffered, I was often told ďyou can always write an essay!Ē just to earn some extra credit. I spent so much of my earlier years trying to get books published and I didnít start freelancing until only about four years ago. But I can safely say Iíve ďbeen a writerĒ for about 20 years.
Q: It is fairly well-known that you frequently write under the pen name Dana Mitchells, which is one of the characters in your fiction novel. Does this pose any problem or confusion in the business side of writing?
Colclasure: Not really. I havenít tried to get this novel published, so it really hasnít been an issue yet. But the fact of the matter is, Iím sort of trying to shed that pen name because the only reason why I chose to use it was because I was harassed by a reader during my first paid writing stint. That guise of anonymity really acted as my security blanket and for the longest time I was afraid to have my real name revealed. But as my confidence grew and I got more work published under my real name without that person making a comeback, I really think Iím ready to continue writing under my real name without worrying about a pseudonym to keep any harassment away.
Q: Along with your many writing projects, you have a two-year-old daughter. How do you stay focused on your writing?
Colclasure: Itís really, really hard to stay focused on writing something when youíve got a toddler pulling your arm every five seconds. Writing is on my mind 24/7, even when Iím cooking dinner or picking up my daughterís toys. Iím always looking for story and article ideas, thinking about current writing projects, trying to figure out problems with writing, etc. When it comes to taking care of a small child, though, that requires complete attention. For this reason, Iíve learned to temporarily ďshut downĒ my creative side when I need to really focus on the parenting side. Itís hard to do this and takes a lot of practice, but itís definitely possible. Another approach is that I keep writing tools EVERYWHERE, even in the bathroom in case I get ideas while Iím giving my daughter her baths. This really helps to stay in ďwriting modeĒ when Iím watching my daughter while she plays outside or when weíre on our way to the grocery store, etc. Finally, I realize that there will just be some projects I need to have absolute, 100 percent of uninterrupted writing time for, and these I save for when my daughter is sleeping or when someone is available to watch her for a couple of hours. Sometimes I even sneak in uninterrupted time to work while sheís watching her favorite shows (thank goodness for the Boomerang channel!). Failing that, I just go without extra sleep to get the job done!
Q: How do you deal with the negative aspects of writing; the rejections, deadlines, slow payment, etc? Do you have a secret technique?
Colclasure: As far as rejection is concerned, it doesnít bother me as much as it used to. When youíve been writing and submitting for so long, you just see it differently. If rejection happens, it happens. Try again and if you donít succeed, move on. Life is too short to dwell on rejection. Iím an editor myself, so I know itís nothing personal. As for deadlines, I do indeed have a technique: I set my own deadline, at least five days earlier than what the editor suggests. I always try to turn work in before my deadlines, but writing for SIGNews (a newspaper for the deaf) has given me a HUGE wake-up call to how tough this can be. Sources disappear, stories get bumped, etc. For this reason, Iíll usually have a variety of different leads in the works for either department I write for, and turn in whichever one gets done first. You have to be persistent with your stories; donít wait around for the last week or the last minute to get cracking! As for dealing with slow payment: Iím just glad my writing income doesnít serve as my base income. Still, here again, persistence counts, and if you end up never getting paid, do something about it then move on.
Q: You do not draw much attention to the fact that you have a hearing disability. Does this affect your writing career in any way? Have you had any negative reactions when readers or editors found out, or do you prefer to keep it quiet?
Colclasure: Itís not so much that I prefer to ďkeep it quietĒ about my deafness; I just donít want to be defined by it. I donít want to be known as a ďdeaf writerĒ because, first of all, Iíve been a writer longer than Iíve been deaf. Second, while I may write about deaf issues, it doesnít take up a majority of my writing projects. As it stands, Iíve yet to write a story with a deaf character. Also, I just think that stereotypes are plain stupid, and lots of people will inevitably attach a stereotype to you once you say something like ďIím deafĒ or even ďIím a paraplegic.Ē If a writer is deaf, donít make a big deal out of it. Judge them by their writing instead. Being deaf has presented certain challenges for me, mainly as far as conducting phone interviews go (though I havenít yet experienced a negative response when interviewing hearing people through the relay service I use). Thankfully, though, the Internet and e-mail have come to the rescue as far as thatís concerned. I havenít yet experienced any negativity from anyone after Iíve told them that Iím deaf; a lot of people have actually responded with curiosity.
Q: Tell us about your latest non-fiction book. What can writers hope to gain?
Colclasure: Iím actually working on three nonfiction books concerning writing and writers, though Iím more involved with two of them right now. What I hope writers will ultimately gain from these books is inspiration to write and new ideas to promote their books. Iíve talked with many writers about my ideas with these books and their feedback has helped immensely. I also hope it will compel them to develop new strategies for finding time to write, getting their work out there and keeping that drive to write alive no matter what roadblocks they face.
Q: With so many books to promote, you must know a lot about marketing. What are your favorite and most effective marketing techniques?
Colclasure: Not everyone is going to agree with this, but in my opinion, word-of-mouth tops the list of the best ways to promote your books. And itís free! Having a large family is a bonus for me; I can tell my siblings, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc., all about my books and I ask them to tell at least two friends or coworkers about the books, too. Find ways to mention your book when youíre standing in line or waiting for an appointment. When I recently mentioned to this founder of an organization that I wanted to interview for an article that I was writing a book on the same subject as her organization, she not only encouraged me to get feedback and information from her members but she also asked me to write articles for her magazine. So definitely find a way to mention your books whenever and wherever possible. Another good way that all writers know of is to submit free articles with your book information in the byline. You can also start up an e-zine (like I did with one of my books) and offer to give talks or teach workshops on your bookís subject. Getting a leg-up with your local newspaper and bookstore wouldnít hurt, either.
Q: In your opinion, what was your greatest achievement so far? Did it give you satisfaction, monetary compensation or status?
Colclasure: Well, it didnít bring me fame or fortune, but I truly think that my greatest achievement to date is having the confidence to write again, each and every day. After that harassment period I mentioned above, I went through several months where I couldnít write a single word. My confidence was shattered and my muse was temporarily paralyzed. I was too afraid to write again, but more afraid to put myself out there. My experiences with a bad publishing company only added to this crisis. I was too afraid to trust ANYONE again. Then I read Dennis Palumboís book, Writing from the Inside Out: Transforming Your Psychological Blocks to Release the Writer Within, and it really changed me. It helped me crawl out of my shell and, little by little, I started writing again. It just really helped me to cope with my anxieties and fears. Even today, four years later, I still feel a great sense of satisfaction when I finish writing something each day.
Q: What or who inspires you the most?
Colclasure: I would have to say that there are three people who have inspired me. One is Walt Disney because, despite the negative rumors associated with him, heís a man who never gave up on his dreams. Despite several bankruptcies and drawbacks, he never gave up. He pursued his dreams with a fervor because he knew they were worth everything he put into them. He believed in them and, in the end, he created something beautiful for all the world to cherish and enjoy. Another role model of mine is Barbara Walters. She really defines ďgraceĒ in all that she does and she is ultimately the kind of journalist I hope to one day be. And sheís not afraid to ask the hard-hitting questions, either! Finally, Peter Bowerman has inspired me, because he literally climbed the ladder to success all on his own and really made a huge difference in just how realistic it is for a writer to earn a living doing what they love.
Q: What are some of your future goals? What are you working on now?
Colclasure: Right now Iím working on more books than I can remember! But Iím also reading poetry submissions for Skyline E-Magazine, researching and interviewing experts for an article series that will later be turned into a book, and writing articles for SIGNews. Iím also wrapping up the first draft of one of my nonfiction books and looking for magazines to submit short stories to. As for my goals, Iím proud of my accomplishments with nonfiction writing, but I really want to make bigger strides with fiction. Itís my aim to get some short stories out there this year, put together a collection of short stories, get one novel accepted by a publisher and write another, and test my fiction-writing skills with some screenplay ideas I keep banging around. Hopefully one or more of these goals will be met soon enough.
Q: Do you have any additional thoughts or comments, Dawn?
ever let anybody tell you what a writer should be; if you write as much as
possible, you are a writer. Even if you havenít been published but you STILL
write, you are a writer. Donít let rejection be a roadblock for you; keep
writing and keep submitting! Remember, you have a guaranteed ďright to writeĒ
no matter what anybody says. Period. Follow your dreams, never give up on your
goals and accept the challenge to try something new. Just be sure to keep
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" was released 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.