I have some truly awesome writer friends. For serious. I don’t know where I’d be without them, and I think it would be terribly selfish of me to keep them all to myself. So, here we are at the start of a new series on this blog: Writer Friend Features. My dear writer friend Lisen Minetti has agreed to be my first guinea pig. Lisen is a co-coordinator of the Atlantic County Writers United meetup group in southern New Jersey, a writer of middle grade and young adult fiction, and a diehard Whedonite. Welcome, Lisen!
MK: Okay, basics first: Who are you? Tell us a bit about yourself.
Lisen: Ugh, I hate talking about myself! But if I have to …
I live outside of Atlantic City, New Jersey with my husband, two kids and a killer cat. I currently work full time as a paralegal, and have a Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology. I originally wanted to go to school for writing and / or journalism (really, anything along those lines) but the classes were only offered during the day, and I could only attend school at night, so I took the psychology / criminal justice route and just kind of went with it. Serial killers fascinate the crap out of me, so I did really well in the program, and always thought that when I did sit down to write a book, it would be a thriller. Or a murder mystery. Something involving crime and death. Instead what came out was a kid’s book. Go figure.
As far as fun, untypical things about me go, I am an unabashed Browncoat (if you don’t know what that means, go watch the entire series of Joss Whedon’s Firefly, then come back – I’ll wait), I’m an archer in a medieval mercenary fighting group and if I had to pick one thing I absolutely want to do before I die it is have a library in my house with floor to ceiling bookshelves of my favorite books. Preferably hardback first editions, but I’m not that picky.
MK: What’s the earliest story you can remember writing?
Lisen: The earliest story I remember writing was when I was in third grade and put together a book on the Bermuda Triangle, Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster. I was the author and my little sister was the illustrator. I wrote a page or two on each topic and she drew a picture.
It wasn’t until I was in fifth grade, however, that my writing really took off with “The Tale of the Talisman”, which was nearly seven (handwritten) pages and was a mystery about a necklace with magical properties.
Even back then I was fascinated with the unexplained, a theme that is recurring in almost everything I write today.
MK: What do you think is the secret to balancing writing pursuits with a crazy busy life?
Lisen: If there is a secret, I really need to be let in on it. Between working full time and being a mother of two (along with everything that goes along with it) I have so little time for me, that I really have to work at making writing work for me. Some days it’s simple, and other days the time disappears. I get really irritated at people who drill in that in order to be a successful writer you HAVE to write EVERY SINGLE DAY. For me, and, I think, most people, that’s an impossibility. But finding the time to think about writing every single day is something I can do. Whether it’s going to meet ups with others in my writing group, or reading a book in the genre I write, or paying attention to the character traits of a particularly charming villain in a movie, I am always thinking about the writing process: What I could be doing, what others are doing successfully, how what I read and watch influences me, and how those same things could make my writing even better. I find that after a few days of taking a step back and just being cognizant of those things gives me a fresh start and then I jump back in not just able to write, but really excited to write. So, I guess you could say my secret is not to force myself to write every day.
MK: What’s your favorite part of the writing process?
Lisen: I love editing. I’m somewhat of a perfectionist and usually have to go through ten drafts of something before I don’t want to just hit the delete button. I know what makes writing good – as an avid reader I know what sucks me into a world, into the hearts and souls of characters, into the story. But the process to get to that point is long and arduous – like the journey most characters themselves have to embark on. Like those characters, I know I can get there, I just have to put the work in. And that’s why I love editing: To take a bad draft with decent ideas, and salvage them. To take those scraps and re-arrange them into something workable. To scratch out, re-write and re-write again to make something solid. To pound out the bumps and make something smooth. To polish the surfaces, to make it graceful. To add the finishing touches and make it magical. That’s my favorite part, even if it takes days, months or years to get there.
MK: Tell us something useful. A piece of advice, a link to an article you found valuable, a writing reference book you love, etc.
Lisen: There two most useful things I have come across are Stephen King’s On Writing and my writing group (I belong to two).
First, On Writing. I grew up reading Stephen King and really enjoy his earlier works. And On Writing is different from every other ‘how to’ I’ve even glanced at. It’s full of odd advice and personal touches that just really makes you realize how different writing is for everyone. That there’s no one right way to do it. That’s what I think I got out of it the most, and it was something that I really needed to hear.
Second – A writing group. As I said, I belong to two different groups and they are vastly different. The first one I joined was fairly far away from home, and well established. The second one I somehow ended up being a co-organizer for, so I can schedule meetings anywhere I want to (ahhh, the power!). But the best thing about my writing groups is being able to connect with other writers. It is fracking amazing. I have met so many wonderful people who have helped me in so many ways. My groups are a support, a wealth of information and a swift kick in the ass when I need it. Writing has long been depicted as a solitary endeavor, left to those in remote cabins in the woods, or locked away in attics scribbling prose by candlelight. Maybe that was they truth fifty – or even ten – years ago; but today my writing groups are also my lifeline.
MK: What are you working on right now?
Lisen: 2015 finds me really busy from a writing perspective. I am getting ready to seriously query a book I finished back in September of 2013 – it was my first completed MS so I shelved it for a long while to see how I would feel about it a year or so later, and I still loved it – so I have been busily working on query letters, a synopsis and agent research. The story is a middle grade book about Cady Martin, an eleven year old witch who solves supernatural laced mysteries.
Once that fervor dies down, I am really excited to delve back into a YA novel I started drafting for NaNoWriMo 2014. It’s a hot mess right now, but has a lot of potential. Tentatively titled Dark Magicks it centers on an 18 year old girl who lives in a world where magick and evil are intertwined. I would give more of the plot away, but I have a feeling it will change sooner than later!