What goes on inside the writerly mind?
Let’s sit down with one of our Word Weaver Writing Contest 4th place winners, Sharon Cathcart
DAN: Did you write your story for the contest or was it part of a larger piece or something you had written before?
SHARON CATHCART: “Ghosts of Tupelo” was part of a series of short stories I wrote for a project called It Happened in Memphis and Other Stories. I wanted to capture the early days of rock and roll in a variety of ways. The project did not come together as I might have wished, so I decided to rework and repurpose the best pieces. This was one of them.
Good call. It worked out well, and we benefitted!
Tell us about your writing process. What is the journey from idea to published piece /completed story?
I can get inspiration from all kinds of sources: a biography, a piece of music, a place. Once that happens, the ‘daydreaming’ begins. How would I like this story to work? What are the people like who populate it? After that, I start writing. It doesn’t always flow in chronological order; sometimes it’s scenes that need to be connected. I let the story arc tell me how long it needs to be, whether it’s a short story, a novella, or a full-length novel.
Did your spouse help you? How?
Mostly, he stays out of the way. However, when I need to know whether or not a man would be likely to behave the way I’ve written a particular action, he’s there to give me a critique.
Where do you do your writing?
I write a lot in hotels during day job business trips, oddly enough … and I have an office at home. Sometimes, inspiration strikes somewhere else, so I have a notebook in my handbag.
What helps you the most when it comes to writing?
I use a number of tools to keep me in my setting; I have a bulletin board over my desk at home, and it’s covered with ephemera relating to whatever location I’m writing about. I also use music a lot; as I worked on tales set in Memphis and New Orleans, it was pretty easy to find appropriate tunes. It even works for Paris … assuming you like café jazz, of course.
What does writing success look like?
It’s different for everyone, isn’t it? I decided I was a successful writer on the day that my first article appeared in a newspaper that wasn’t published by my school.
“I must confess that I went through a long period in which I no longer thought of myself as a writer”
(this was after the newspaper for which I was an editor shuttered and I went back to a more mundane day job). I absolutely think of myself as a writer these days, first and foremost.
What are you working on now?
I’m doing a series of what I call “story pockets.” I’m pulling the best pieces from It Happened in Memphis and Other Stories and grouping them thematically. These will come out as short eBooks with three or four stories, and sell at a low price. One of my favorites, the title piece from the original collection, is about the Million Dollar Quartet and Sun Studios. I’m excited about this.
There are a lot of writing contests out there. What drew you to this one?
Honestly, I’ve enjoyed reading your blog and got a lot out of it. I decided that, after several years of self-publishing, I wanted to dip my toes back into the submissions process. This seemed like a good place to start.
Have you ever entered a writing contest before?
Just once … and I didn’t place. What I did do was tighten up the piece, entitled “Betrayed by a Kiss,” and include it in a collection of my own. I receive positive comments on it regularly, so I’m glad of that. (It’s probably the only vampire story I’ll ever write, for what that’s worth.)
Will we see you again in the next Word Weaver Writing Contest, if there is one?
It’s entirely possible.
Did you know the piece you submitted was special?
I did. I wanted to tell a story about Evangeline … Evie … whose parents are Amos and Diana, from Bayou Fire. I felt like the Boudreaux family wasn’t done talking to me yet. I also wanted to share the Elvis Presley Birthplace Center with readers. Sometimes I think that those of us who love rock music take the architects of that sound for granted. We shouldn’t; it’s an important piece of history.
What’s next for you?
I’ll be working on those story pockets and seeing how it all turns out.
What was Dan’s critique process like?
Honestly, it was a gift. Detailed information like I got from the critique helped me see some habits I had as an author that could use some help! I could immediately see how they tightened up my work. It’s always nice to have a completely objective reader say “Hey, did you notice that you do XXX a lot? Maybe try YYY a time or two.”
Hey, we all do it!
What’s a piece of advice you received that has helped you a lot, in writing or whatever?
Even if it’s shite, get it on the paper. You can’t edit a blank page. I pass this one along pretty regularly.
Besides writing, what are your favorite things to do?
I love traveling, reading, volunteering at our local animal shelter in the kitten nursery, attending plays and films, and learning new things.
What do you do for cover art? Do you do it yourself, hire an artist (you can name names if you liked them), or purchase premade?
I am fortunate to be friends with pinup artist James Courtney (look for his Burlesque Coloring Book – I am not kidding). He’s done the majority of my covers, and I love his work.
Sharon E. Cathcart is an award-winning author of fiction featuring atypical characters.
A former journalist and newspaper editor, Sharon has been writing for as long as she can remember and always has at least one work in progress.
Sharon lives in the Silicon Valley, California, with her husband, Jeff, and several rescue cats.
You can find her on social media:
Amazon – if you click through on this link, it will take you automatically to the store for your country: Author.to/sharonecathcart