The winners of April’s Word Weaver Writing Contest share their thoughts on the contest, writing in general, and other stuff.
Today Heather Hackett answers a few questions about our contest and other writerly things.
(Click HERE to read her contest entry)
Heather is not just an author. She is also a poet, a traveler, a photographer, a musician, a free spirit, an adventurer, a thrill seeker, a cycling nut, a wife and a mother.
She has searched for meaning in our often insignificant and trivial lives across three continents, mostly in Asia, and found various forms of spiritual fullfilment, some very powerful and life-changing. She has experienced some awesome highs and some wretched lows, known scarcity and prosperity in not so equal measures, and learned how precious life really is.
Her new book is a memoir of all her experiences, hilarious and pitiful, gained while dragging her sorry ass (and her two young kids) up and down the Himalaya, through the monsoons of Asia and along the bike paths of Europe.
Heather currently lives in Newcastle, Australia with her partner, Iain, and best furry friend, Lea, where she writes, cycles and drinks far too much coffee.
Dan: Did you write your story for the contest or was it part of a larger piece or something you had written before?
No, this piece was already mostly written, though only in first draft form, when I came across the contest. It will probably become the first chapter of my next book, Gaijin Live Next Door, which follows on from my first travel memoir, already self-published and available on Amazon – Restless – Memoir of an Incurable Traveller
Tell us about your writing process. What is the journey from idea to published piece /completed story?
Well my first book took me over 20 years to write, mainly because I failed to get my bum in the chair on a regular basis. Once I did though, it only took 3 months. I tend to burrow in when I get focused.
I always make an outline though, which can be very rough to start with. Just a lot of ideas in a list really, and then later on it gets organized into a more logical sequence. This works for me because I write non-fiction and while each chapter of my memoirs can stand alone, I find my readers prefer to read the stories as if they occurred on a definite timeline. That actually helps me to remember more of the stories while I’m writing them, too. With Restless, I had to tell myself to stop writing, enough already. I had a lot of material to work with, and that made it easier to be a more ruthless editor.
When I’m writing, I like my music loud, especially music from the era in which the anecdotes are set. But while I’m editing, I like quiet. And darkness. And lots of coffee. And sometimes, wine.
Where do you do your writing?
Lots of different places. I do have an office in my home and I tend to cocoon myself away and listen to the music that reminds me of what I’m writing about. But then, I’ve also been known to throw my laptop in my backpack and take off on my bicycle until I find somewhere that feels ‘right’. That can be a picnic table in the park, or a quiet corner of my favorite café surrounded by empty coffee cups.
However, my best ideas always come to me in the shower, so as soon as I can get my hands on a waterproof Bluetooth keyboard, production should increase remarkably.
Do you have a writing goal you want to achieve?
I want to write a novel – a psychological thriller – after I’m finished with this second memoir. I’m probably going to be a bit of a pantser when it comes to that, though, apart from making a rough outline to give me some focus.
What helps you the most when it comes to writing?
My old journals and letters that I wrote home to my family while I was traveling (yes, there was only snail mail in my day and people wrote with things called pens). My mom saved all my letters – even numbered them in order of receipt, God love her. Great for jogging the memory.
But I love my editor, too. She keeps me honest. And keeps me awake at night. And keeps asking for more, more, more. She costs me a lot more words.
Then there’s coffee, music, Scrivener, wine, and semi-darkness – not necessarily in that order.
What does writing success look like?
The orange bestseller tag on Amazon!
What are you working on now?
Second book in my travel memoirs. I lived and worked in Japan for around 8 years, and I have lots of hilarious stories about my encounters with the Japanese and their idiosyncratic society. These were intended to be part of the first book, but when I realized I had enough material from Japan alone to fill another one, I split them into two.
There are a lot of writing contests out there. What drew you to this one?
I found it through a shared link on my FB page and I thought the prizes were awesome – never underestimate the value of a good cover designer!
Have you ever entered a writing contest before?
I don’t think so – no.
Will we see you again in the July Word Weaver Writing Contest?
Did you know the piece you submitted was special?
I always hope that the things I write and the way I write them will have a profound effect on my readers, whether that be to make them laugh, make them cry, or just astound them with how incredibly naïve and stupid I can be when I travel.
What’s next for you?
Writing, writing and more writing. I just love it!
Thanks so much for sharing these insights, Heather!
Gang, here’s the link to Heather’s book currently available on Amazon – click HERE
She also gives away a book of photos taken on her many travels in exchange for an email address. Grab a copy for free HERE
The next winners will be coming up on the blog soon. Stay tuned!