Word Weaver Winner’s Profiles: First Place Winner Ellie Presner

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The winners of April’s Word Weaver Writing Contest share their thoughts on the contest, writing in general, and other stuff.

Our first place winner in our first contest, Ellie Presner wrote an amazing story – but also lives one. Born and raised in Montreal, Ellie still lives her life there “to the fullest” as a freelance writer, editor and proofreader in the land of “bonjour-hi!”

“My writing credits include ‘Taking Back the Night,’ which was nominated for a National Magazine Award. Originally published in Homemaker’s Magazine, it was anthologized in Essays: Patterns and Perspectivesby Oxford University Press (1992). Another of my stories, “First Kiss,” was anthologized in The Issues Collection: Gender Issues, McGraw Hill Ryerson (1993). My other credits include magazine articles in Menz, Home and School, The Write Place and Gasp; I’ve also been published numerous times in the Montreal Gazette, The Downtowner and The Westmount Examiner.

Ellie-mauve scarf
author Ellie Presner

“When not at my Mac desktop, you’ll find me ensconced in my recliner with my cat, Annie, glued to my lap. If I need to get up I have to say, “Sorry, Annie…”

“I have two lovely adult children, a plump ‘n’ hairy kitty, a boyfriend who lives 700 miles away (drat!) and – oh yes – an ex-husband.

“My many years spent reading, editing and proofreading various magazines, screenplays, books and fellow writers’ manuscripts have honed my awareness of what good writing should look like.”

We agree. Maybe that’s why we loved her entry so much.
Now, for some writerly insights with our first grand prize winner.
Here’s Ellie
(Click HERE to read her winning entry).

1.      Dan: Did you write your story for the contest or was it part of a larger piece or something you had written before?

Ellie: I have distinct memories of the circumstances surrounding this 1991 story. I don’t know why I dredged it up after all this time for this contest, except to say that I’ve always had a soft spot for it. It captured the snarky, vengeful feelings I still had then, years post-divorce. I’d gone on a “writing retreat” with my young-adult daughter to a B&B in the countryside. I wrote two stories in a “white heat,” one of which was this winner. My daughter, though, got sick from some sort of water-borne bacteria (we think) and was down for the count for three days of the five we were there. Poor girl! I also remember the little annoyance of having to go outside every time I wanted a cigarette. In December. (My addiction days.)

2.      Tell us about your writing process. What is the journey from idea to published piece /completed story?
Annie the cat. Ellie was apparently unaware of our “no cats” policy.

First comes the inspiration, i.e., the idea. It usually flashes in my mind much like the light-bulb moment shown in comic books. Usually I’m nowhere near my computer, so I zap the idea down in my Notes app on my phone. (I live in dire fear of losing my phone. There’s a story idea for you!) From there it’s easy to zap the story down in no time. Then: revisions, and finally proofing. Those last stages take longer than the actual writing. (Except for my memoir; that took seven months to write, and three months to revise and proofread.)

3.      Where do you do your writing?

Oh, easy: at my iMac. (See attached photo of my kitty, Annie, supervising me as I write.)

4.      Do you have a writing goal you want to achieve?

Whatever it takes to become rich and famous, I’ll do. Er, no wait, that’s not a good answer. It’s not a NOBLE answer. Let’s try that again. I would like to write something deep and weighty and memorable. No, that’s not quite it either. Something… funny? entertaining? imaginative? disquieting? nightmarish? More memoirs? A novel?

I think it’s time to confess: I don’t have one goal in particular. I just hope each piece is better than the last.

5.      What helps you the most when it comes to writing?

A thesaurus.
You didn’t ask what is the bane of my writing existence. I’ll tell you anyway: I have a weakness for exclamation marks and smileys! 🙂

6.      What does writing success look like?

See #4 please.

7.      What are you working on now?

I’m rather busy these days on a freelance editing gig. Other than that, I’m accumulating notes – and have started outlines – for several books I want to write. All are memoirs based on very different periods in my life. I think memoir is my genre of choice; dabbling in fiction is, I admit, more intimidating for me. Why? Because

when you think about it, in fiction, ANYthing is possible. I’m a bit overwhelmed by that “anything” aspect.

8.      There are a lot of writing contests out there. What drew you to this one?

Well Dan, I’ll tell you: your entry fees were very fair (i.e. low!), and your requirements re length, topic and so on were loosey-goosey. Also: great prizes. Perfect! 🙂

9.      Have you ever entered a writing contest before?

Yes. I entered a contest for writing prompts, which I won. 😀  My prompt was: “When the angel rang the bell, Claret was annoyed. He’s late, she thought.”  Needless to say, this was fiction.

I also came first place in a Grade 4 contest. I was given a paper crown and the title, Queen of the Composition. That sealed my fate.  There were probably other contests I entered, which, having NOT won, I quickly forgot.

10.  Will we see you again in the July Word Weaver Writing Contest?
Yes, If only I can find the guidelines again on your website…
11.  Did you know the piece you submitted was special?
I knew that *I* liked it. I had no idea whether anyone else would, though.
12.  What’s next for you?
Please see #7. Also – I’m planning to self-publish my memoir, since traditional publishers/agents didn’t bite. Two nibbles but that’s it.

Here’s part of my query letter pitching the memoir I wrote last year:

Back in the 1990s I worked on a TV series with Tony Scott, laboured on a script with Patrick McGoohan, chatted with John Ritter over canapés and nodded “Hi!” to Terence Stamp and David Bowie in the hall. My irreverent non-fiction memoir, “Surviving Hollywood North: Crew Confessions of an Insider,” reveals the ups and downs I spent immersed in the then-flourishing film business here in Montreal.

For an ex-social worker, the sudden entry into the world of movie mayhem as a script coordinator was somewhat daunting. What was this unfamiliar line of work like, this peek behind the film curtain? I’m convinced that many people will be curious to find out.

I am seeking a publisher for my 38,700-word memoir, and will be happy to provide my completed manuscript upon your request.

So far I’ve been asked twice for the full manuscript. The first time, I was ignored forever after. Second time got a (very nice) rejection letter.

Ellie, congratulations again and thank you so much for sharing your insights. Gang, we’ll have more Q&A and profiles of the winners coming up, so stay tuned!


Published by Dan Alatorre AUTHOR

USA Today bestselling author Dan Alatorre has 50+ titles published in more than 120 countries and over a dozen languages.

16 thoughts on “Word Weaver Winner’s Profiles: First Place Winner Ellie Presner

  1. Hi Dan, hi, Ellie. This was a great interview. Ellie, you have great writing talent and I can’t wait to see what you give us in July. Good luck with getting a publisher for your memoirs, I think they’ll be something really special.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I’ll tell you what *I* think. Ellie sounds like a somewhat interesting and funny(ish) person. A bit daft, but aren’t we all?! 😀

    I’ve actually crystallized my plans for my next book – it’s a collection of stories, some true, and some true-ish. Details to come.

    Thanks so much, Dan, for this interview! And now I will reblog it at crossedeyesanddottedtees.wordpress.com. Thanks for everything!! And thank you all for your lovely comments, nice people!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Crossed Eyes and Dotted Tees and commented:
    Hi dear readers!

    Here is an ‘author profile’ of me that Dan Alatorre put on his website, in the wake of my first-place win in the writing contest he hosted.

    I’ll have more book news (hint: a second one is forthcoming) in the near future!

    Meanwhile, here’s the link to my profile at Dan’s site.

    Liked by 1 person

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