Thursday, December 14, 2006

INTERVIEW of writer Peg Phifer

OKAY! Here it is: my first interview! I'm so proud. Peg is one of my critique partners & keeps me toeing the line on my writing. I really appreciate her comments today (and on my work! Grin).

Hi, Peg. Thanks for your willingness to share a little bit of your life as a writer with my blog readers. You’re from Nevada, just recently been asked for a full manuscript, and this past month finished the NaNo challenge. I know many people don’t realize what all that curtails. I’d like to ask you a few questions concerning some of that information.

1. Peg, how long have you been writing? What drew you into it? How many manuscripts (novels) have you finished?

Peg: I guess I've been writing, after a fashion, ever since I could hold a pencil. I had severe childhood asthma and in those days the only way it was treated was bed rest. So, after doing the school work sent home to me during those spells, I wrote. Silly, fanciful stuff that no one ever saw. When my family grew up and started leaving home, I got the urge to write seriously, but it never seemed to get anywhere, and I regret to confess that I don't yet have a completed manuscript--in any form.

2. What genre is of the most interest to you? Why?

Peg: In my "mature" years, I've worked on mostly contemporary inspirational romance, I guess what they call Sweet Romance. But it wasn't very satisfying, and I found it difficult to write within the limited word count they require. So, I set them aside and moved to contemporary romantic suspense. More words, more pages, and more fun.

3. Tell us a little bit about what happened when an editor requested a full manuscript. What does that mean? This isn't an every day occurrence for a new writer, is it?

Peg: I took my current contemporary romantic suspense to a conference this year where I'd scheduled a paid critique of the first chapter and three-page synopsis, followed by a fifteen minute one-on-one with an editor from the publishing house I'd hoped would be interested. The critique was just the boost I needed to face the editor. But I bobbled the pitch, got all nervous and tongue-tied. Finally i handed her the one-sheet I'd prepared and then as she read my tongue loosened up a bit as she asked a few questions.

Turns out that publishing house was not accepting unfinished manuscripts from unpublished authors. (Not what I'd understood from what I'd read about them earlier this year.)

Anyway, she asked if she could keep the one-sheet. Good sign. I asked if I could send her a proposal. She said no. Bad sign. But then she handed me her business care, asked for mine and said, "Send me the full manuscript when you get it finished." Definitely a good sign!

What does it mean? Ha. It means I need to write and get that puppy finished. To answer your other question: no, this is not an ordinary thing for a new, unpublished writer.

4. What is the NaNo challenge and what does it mean? How hard is it? What was your goal? Give us some idea of what the challenge is.

Peg: The National Novel Writing Month (NoNoWriMo) happens every November, something some enterprising folks dreamed up seven years ago. The basic idea is to sign up for the challenge, then you're supposed to write 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30. 50,000 words equates to a small mass-market novel such as Barbour's Heartsong Presents or Steeple Hill's Love Inspired.

That's serious writing. It's very hard and it takes a whole lot of discipline and determination. I'd tried it two years in a row before and failed. This year I was determined to go through with it. What makes it even more challenging is that you're supposed to start completely cold-nothing written. Outlines, notes, and research leading up to it is fine. I began with an idea for a historical romantic suspense I'd dreamed up years ago but never took it anywhere. I'd written maybe two-three pages, but that's all. I had done some research over time, so I was a little prepared. And, it's set in a part of the country where I used to live.

But, I actually made my word count and "won" the challenge. Stress-factor aside, it was a lot of fun, and I learned so much about myself during the process. First and foremost, I think I really like writing historical fiction!

5. Have you been rejected by a publishing house? How does that make you feel?

Peg: No, I have no formal rejections, fiction-wise. Up until the last year or so, I've never had the temerity or belief in my writing to submit anything. That changed this year, so I expect to hear I've been rejected soon.

6. Do you set daily goals in the amount of writing you do? So many pages?
Words? How does a writer decide what's good for her?

Peg: That's a good question. Unfortunately, I'm not the one to give you a good answer. At the moment, I am serving as Treasurer on the Operating Board of ACFW and that consumes great chunks of time. I try to make myself sit down and write every day, but it seldom happens that way. I am dreadful at time-management and self-discipline. I'm easily distracted and am a devotee of procrastination. Obviously, something has to change here. Right?

7. Are you a seat-of-the-pants writer or an outliner? Please tell the
readers what this means.

Peg: I am most definitely a SOTP writer. I'm not sure I can explain the antithesis (grin). My understanding of those other writer-types is that they map out their novel even before they begin to write. That's a very brief and probably incorrect over-simplification.

As SOTP, my novels are all character driven. They're constantly surprising me, and that's actually fun. I "plot" as I go. Sometimes I'll stop and open a new document and enter my thoughts willy-nilly. Other times, I'll enter those thoughts in bold face and another color smack in the middle of the document, or when I need to research something, I make a note of it. Later, when the pace of my writing has slowed, I'll go back through those "notes to self" and fill in the blanks. It does help keep the thoughts focused on the flow of the story. If I have to stop to dig for information, I will almost always lose my train of thought. (That's what I did with NaNo and it helped with my word count.)

8. How will you react when your first book is published? What will be your
emotional feeling?

Peg: Oh, my. I hope I survive it! After defibrillation, my first thought will probably be, "Oh, how I wish Mom and Dad could hold this book in their hands."

9. How important to you are critiquing groups, conferences, etc.? Why? Do
they advance your writing? How?

Peg: I find them invaluable. Crit groups are great. If you can find one locally so you have face-to-face give and take, that's wonderful. I don't. But there are many online ways to hook up with a group of like-minded writers and critique each other's work. The key, I think, in any group like that, is to make up your mind exactly how you want to be critiqued. I prefer the unvarnished variety--tough, honest, and pulling-no-punches type. It's the only critiuqe that helps me. Of course, all comments from someone else are subjective. If you get the same thought from more than one of the others looking at your manuscript, then perhaps there's merit in what they say. Otherwise, think it through and decide for yourself.

Conferences, too, are of great importance. Not just for the opportunity to meet with an editor or agent, but also for the sheer joy of networking and fellowshipping with other writers. Whether they advance a writing career depends on why you go and what you take away. I'm sure that even if an appointment with an editor is a disappointment, or the agent you wanted didn't want you, underneath there is a positive feeling and you'll go home encouraged and eager to tackle the next step.

10. What's your least favorite thing about writing? Your most favorite thing?

Peg: Least favorite? Probably trying to write a rough draft without my internal editor constantly perched on my shoulder and nudging me: "Uh, oh, that's not right, better fix it." "That's not spelled right." or "You just used 'was' four times in that sentence." (well, maybe that last one is allowed!). I find it almost impossible to turn her off.

Mostly, though, I think I like everything about writing. But then, keep in mind that I haven't been contracted yet, so I have little inkling of what comes next. I suspect marketing will become something I'll dislike intensely.

Thanks again, Peg. I’m sure my readers will enjoy reading what you’ve given us. Folks, I’ve read some of Peg’s work, and she is good. Keep watching, because I predict she’ll soon be published! Best to you, Peg!

Peggy Phifer is a retired executive secretary who now serves on the board of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) as Treasurer. Peg served as editor/publisher of the former Wordsmith Shoppe News, and also maintained the companion website. Many of her book reviews appeared on the site. Peg is working on her first novel and just successfully completed the NationalWritersNovelMonth challenge. An avid reader, Peg confesses to panic attacks if she finds herself with nothing to read. She says: "You know you're desperate when you reach for War and Peace for a second read." And, "Yes, I have read it twice," she says.

Peg also loves to do handcrafts of nearly every sort and her home shows off some of her work, though most end up as gifts to friends and family. She is a member of ACFW, CWFI (Christian Writers Fellowship International and the Writer's View. Peg lives in Las Vegas with husband Jim and a group of Lynx-Point Siamese cats who—most of the time—willingly share the house with their humans. Visit her website (

Here are some pointers on how to keep your poinsettias around as long as possible.
  • Place the plant in bright light, but not direct sun
  • keep soil slightly moist, not waterlogged
  • feed with a liquid houseplant fertilizer read label for directions on how often to feed.
  • When the flowers fade, keep the leaves healthy by watering and feed as you would during the flowering season.
  • The flowerless plant still needs bright light
  • prune back during the growing season to control its size and shape so it won't get thin and ungainly.
  • To stimulate flowering for next year, start in October to keep the plant in total darkness from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day for four weeks
  • maintain a night temperature of 60 to 67 degrees F.
  • mist leaves daily if atmosphere is too dry
  • when you plant begins to flower place the plant in bright light and begin the procedure over again. Enjoy!

We expect too much at Christmas. It's got to be magical. It's got to go right. Feasting. Fun. The perfect present. All that anticipation. Take it easy. Love's the thing. The rest is tinsel. -- Pam Brown.



yumanbing said...

Interesting interview. I didn't know writing as a profession or avocation was so entailed. When I was in college a couple of centuries ago, my English Comp instructor wanted to know what I was going to do with my writing. My feeling was that writing is less like creating, and more like giving birth (not that I'd know anything about that). Anyway, what little I know is that it's hard work.

Caroline said...

Brudder, you got that right! It is hard work, but those who've got the bug (and the real thing won't go away--I know. It was down inside me, creeping out to show itself in various other ways--children's work, brochures, business, research, education,etc.) love it. They can't get away from it, and don't want to (at least, most of the time.
Love ya!

sharen said...

Great intervies!! Some got it and some don't. I don't have the patience!! You do a great job and I love reading your site. Love Ya and Merry Christmas!! Sharen

sharen said...

See I go to fast and didn't even look over my words. I meant interview. I can spell.

Break Time!

In Case Anyone is Wondering What's Going on with few posts lately-- I'm taking a short hiatus. Deciding where I want to...