Savvy Sunday Salutations’ to Billie Jo Woods
Hellooooo there! Welcome to 2012’s very first Savvy Sunday Salutations’! Before I disappeared and took that rather long break away, we had resident blogger (and good friend) Patrick Tulley take the spotlight ( click on the link for his interesting article ‘Male Power isn’t All it’s Cracked up to be‘). Now, we are in a new year, I thought it would be perfect to start Savvy Sunday Salutations with one of my very first author/blogging buddies: Billie Jo Woods. Please give a special and warm welcome to Billie Jo. *stands up and applauds*
Fear – A Writer’s Best Friend
by Billie Jo Woods
Fear is one of the most powerful tools in a writer’s shed. On my blog I post a weekly spot dedicated to phobias of things that humans fear the most. I do this because these fears make great material for writers to use within their plots and are brilliant for character development. That is one way of a writer using fear as a powerful tool. Today I am going to point out another way writers can use fear to their advantage but I would like to first thank Ozlem Yikici for having me as a guest blogger today.
When we fear something, it is usually because we need to develop more understanding of it or gain more experience dealing with it. If something is new to us or strange to us, our minds fill in the gap for the missing information. We do this by basing our assumptions on past experiences we deem as similar to the situation we fear. The problem is sometimes these assumptions are wrong.
I am terrified of bees, hornets, and wasps. I actually have a good reason to fear them, as I am very allergic to their stings. I carry an epi-pen with me from about March through the end of November. I have only been stung twice. The last sting was quite painful for about a month afterwards and caused the bad reaction. I do realise that if I stand very still they most likely will get bored of spending time with me and fly away but I still fear them.
Hoverflies look almost identical to the above-mentioned creatures. They have taken on the same yellow and black stripes to deter their own predators from coming near them. The problem is when I see a hoverfly I immediately think bee, wasp, or hornet. I do not stick around long enough to get to know these harmless little creatures who actually could help me out by eating all the aphids in my garden.
By allowing fear to cloud, the way I judge one thing based on how I see another prevents me from seeing any of the positives that the thing has to offer. This is equally true in writing. When I first entertained the idea of getting my writing published, I imagined every literary agent or publisher as my most critical high school English teacher and the future readers of my books as those kids that used to sit in the back of the room heckling and sneering as I presented my book reports to the class. This assumption was because I just did not and still do not have all the facts about the literary world.
Educating myself through reading about the way things work, by asking those friendly agents who make themselves available as many questions as I can and through gently working my way into the writing scene allows me to overcome these fears. Yes, I know those agents, publishers, and future readers will be even more critical than my high school English teacher or those kids at the back of the class that sneered at everything but the knowledge of why they will be helps to distance myself a bit and make it less of a fearful situation.
What about the writing itself? Is there a topic, a character an event you want to write about but you fear it? Find out why you fear it. Is it because it is controversial, personal or perhaps not what is with the trend? If you educate yourself about that topic to overcome the fear, then try it out, then you may find yourself in a winning situation. If not no loss for trying. Just imagine if it did turn out to be great though. What you feared might now result in your best seller.
Using fear as a tool to help you know where you need to gain more knowledge will help you along the way to greater self-confidence and success as a writer. How about you, do you fear editing? Does the thought of publishing make you go weak in the knees? Is your grammar or punctuation holding you back? What steps are you taking to tackle that fear?
Copyright © Billie Jo Woods 2012. All Rights Reserved.
Billie Jo, thank you for your informative post; fear is an interesting sense which we creative-types tend to fall victim to. I am certain many of our readers will identify with the topics you raised. Let’s hope we all take heed and be braver with our present and future steps. Ok, now it’s time to take the inqusitive chair, ready? Let’s start.
There’s Something About – Billie Jo Woods
1. Billie Jo, you chose to share the above article with us, could you please tell us what has been the instrumental reason to why you like creating/writing about this subject:
When I was at university to become a reading teacher, my minor concentration was in psychology and behaviourism. Fear always fascinated me because it is so easy to become conditioned to a fear but so difficult to overcome one. Many of my stories involve characters overcoming their fears and becoming stronger for it. Up until about six months ago, I was a closet writer. I feared writing in a public domain but at the same time dreamed of writing words that people would someday read. I understand fear and know that many talented people out there struggle with it.
2. Why do you blog?
I initially created a blog over two years ago for the charity that I work for. I use it to post informational articles for people with disabilities and long enduring health conditions. l also post news updates pertaining to the charity on the blog. I think because I am anonymous on that blog, I had no inhibition about writing in the public domain.
I severely lacked confidence in my own personal writing though, so I started my own blog because it was a way for me to sort of dip my toe in and test the waters of writing for a more public domain under my own name. At the time, I had a heap of fantasy short stories, a couple completed science fiction based novellas, and even a completed novel that I had written, but I had not let anybody else read them aside from one time when I gave the novel to my mother to read. About a year ago, an old friend from college gave me a little push and encouraged me to go after my old writing dream. The blog seemed the gentlest way to start.
3. Of all the articles, you choose to blog about –which are the easiest, the hardest and most enjoyable?
Initially blogging felt difficult because I was not sure what to write about and felt a bit unsure of where to start. Many of my first posts were just my ramblings. Then I discovered all the flash fiction challenges, which allowed my posts to be filled mainly with those, and bits of rambling posts in between. I was worried I had to post every single day or nobody would read it. I worried if nobody left a comment.
I suppose recently I have become more comfortable in my blogging skin. I do not feel I have to post all the time. I blog for me and the experience of blogging. I love when people comment but I understand that all my readers have other commitments just as I do. All my blog posts are both easy and enjoyable now. I have cut down to two set posts a week. One of them is on a Wednesday and it answers or at least asks those ‘What if?’ questions that crop up from time to time. The other is on a Friday and is dedicated to phobias, some of which are quite unusual. I try to tie both posts into the writing world somehow. In the next few months I may add a third weekly post and I intend on getting my guest poster spots back on a monthly basis.
The hardest posts I have written are the ones on the techniques and mechanics of writing, rewriting or editing. They are usually about issues or questions that have cropped up whilst on my own writing journey. They require a certain degree of research and I only post about them after I have tried them out and can report on whether or not they were useful. I suppose many of the issues are things that other writers struggle with as well but those types of posts make me reflect on my own skills. The difficult part is in the analysing of myself, it is a bit like holding a mirror up and having to admit to my good qualities and then point out the bad.
4. What is your most favourite and worst part of blogging?
My favourite part of blogging is the community of bloggers that I have been immersed in. Every blogger I have met has been supportive and understanding. Since I do not have a writing group that I can attend on a regular basis and most of my friends and family members are not writers having a collective so readily at hand that understand the experience is amazing. I love how bloggers work together to promote each other’s work.
The worst part of blogging is the schedule. It is hard to commit to it and stick to it especially with work, family and other writing commitments. Finding the time to read other’s blogs becomes difficult too. I feel a little guilty sometimes if I do not get the chance to catch up on what other bloggers have been up to.
*Nods head in agreement*
5. What is your motto in life/your work ethics?
My two mottos in life are that life is what you make of it and to live life to the fullest. I want to be happy and successful and I believe hard work and a positive attitude will get me there. I have a different expectation of success then many people I know. I do not measure success based on fortune or fame. Success to me is about not having any regrets. If I want something bad, I usually go for it. The second element to this is in how I deal with and cope with the setbacks that are out of my control. There is success in how I fail. I have bad days and roadblocks to deal with just like everyone else. When I stumble, I usually take a little moment and allow myself to feel the negative feelings then I dust myself off, analyse the situation and either try to tackle it again or modify the goal. As long as I have tried my hardest, I am successful.
6. What was the last dream you saw?
My sleeping dreams are wild, wonderful, and full of glorious Technicolor. Unfortunately, it seems when I am having the best ones, which would make great books by the way, I wake up and have forgotten them. I have tried writing them down as soon as I wake up but it is just no use, it is as if they leak right out of my head.
However, interestingly enough, last night when I went to sleep, I dreamt that I was a male police officer in the 1970s running through the entries at the back of terraced houses. I had a gun in my hand and was chasing someone who I knew to be a drug lord. The suspect sadly got away. It was a great adrenaline rush. It was a direct result of my husband watching Life on Mars as I was falling asleep.
The last real life dream that I saw or see every day is my children. They are the one thing I wanted more than anything else in this world. I continue to walk on clouds since having them 5 and 7 years ago. Sappy but true.
Aww that’s sweet -and I know what you mean about dreams being a police-person; they are so fun!
7. In a film about your life, which actor would you cast to play you?
My husband would say Anna Faris because she plays flighty characters and he often implies that I have slightly flighty moments.
I think someone more versatile like Drew Barrymore would be a better choice. She is not just a one-style actress. I think I am quite a multidimensional person and would want that to come through.
8. What are you currently working on?
I am currently putting the finishing touches on my NaNoWriMo novel’s first draft. It was my first year doing NaNOWriMo and I learned a tremendous amount about me as a writer from participating in it. It is a young adult novel that features a male protagonist. It is not the first male protagonist I have written but the first one that has taken a central role in one of my novels. So I have been a little nervous about how he will come across to readers.The book is a bit of an outdoor/adventure novel with a fantasy/sci-fi twist. Most of it is set in the desert. I have never written a novel based so much in the real world before. I have been worried about getting the facts right but I haven’t let that stop me from writing it. There are so many places, plant names, and different terrains that needed to be described, none of which I have actually seen up close and personal. I spent most of October researching and outlining for it. I managed my 50k words for NaNo but it was not a completed novel after that so I have kept going.
The other project I am working on is a slightly different young adult novel. It is a fantasy that is deeply set in ancient times. I have been working on the outline and research for this novel throughout the month of December. I even have written a few of the scenes for it. It features a female protagonist who is actually a character that readers of my blog have met before. I had written a short story entitled “For the Love of the Handmaiden” several months ago and a few people felt the story should be expanded on. This novel is not told from the love interest’s point of view but from the handmaiden’s point of view and tells of all the events that led up to that short story. I am so excited by this project that I can barely wait to really sink in to it.
9. Which three words describe you best?
Optimistic, Empathetic, Determined
10. What’s next/what can we expect from you?
I am looking to self-publish some of my novellas as e-books in this coming year. They are stories that stand at about 40k words and therefore are too short to be classified as proper novels. They have also reached their natural length and by expanding them I would only be adding words that do not need to be added.
I am also developing a series for middle grade readers that is adventure based but has an educational element to it. Hopefully that series will appeal to reluctant learners and readers who do not relate to traditional textbook style lessons.
11. Do you have a funny/inspiring anecdote you’d like to share with us?
Aside from stinging insects the other thing that I fear is heights. I have difficulty with things like glass elevators or stairs that seem open. I get a little dizzy when I have to face either of these to things. This dizziness is the route of my fear of heights. I am afraid one day I will lose my balance and fall. I have already fallen off things like chairs and ladders and it was not pleasant.
A new restaurant opened in our town. Everyone has been raving about how good it is. So this past week my husband and I had a very rare child free night. We decided to meet up after work at this restaurant. I walked into the most beautiful entry to a restaurant I have ever seen. There is a glass domed ceiling and water feature tumbling down the facing wall. I stood there waiting for my husband when it dawned on me, the restaurant itself was actually on the second floor.
I looked to my right and saw a glass elevator. I then looked to my left and saw an open staircase. Fear began to grip me. How was I ever going to get up to the door which I could now see was located all the way around the catwalk that followed the arc of the dome to get in and have my meal? I knew my husband would laugh at me if I told him I could not make it up there but he has been married to me long enough he would understand.
He arrived and I immediately pointed out the problem. He chuckled at me but grabbed my hand and said, “which is the lesser of the two evils?”
I looked to the stairs and immediately decided they were the best bet even though it meant I would also have to brave the catwalk and then deal with the view of the street outside and the entrance I was currently standing in on either side from up at that height. We began to make our way up and I got to the top of the first flight of stairs. I froze. I could not go any further. I walked back down. Then I grabbed my husbands hand, took another deep breath and climbed those stairs. I think I crushed his hand as I walked around that catwalk. I did it though. I made it to the doorway. I overcame my fear.
We walked in and asked for a table. I was still breathing a little heavier than normal and I could still feel my heart fluttering in my chest. The waitress looked at us and smiled that nice friendly waitress smile. Then she said that they were just finishing serving their afternoon meals and that we would need to go away and come back in another thirty minutes for the evening meals. At that point I was laughing on the inside and out. She must have thought I was crazy. I had overcome my fear of getting up to that restaurant and now I would have to do it all over again if I wanted to eat there.
In the end, my husband and I went to a different restaurant. It was one where we had been many times before. We knew we did not need to wait there. We knew the food was good. We did not need to scale great heights to get to it.
However, next time we have a night out we will try that new place because now I know if we go just a little later in the evening I can do it. I have already done it and survived it once before… and that is one more fear squashed before it could control me.
Billie Jo! You did it! That’s just made me chuckle. What are the odds. Life never ceases to amaze me. Thank you for being part of Savvy Salutations’, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I’ve had collaborating with you. For those of you who want to know more about Billie Jo and where to find her, please check out her biography here.
Savvy Sunday Salutations’ will be back in two weeks, I’ll be welcoming author/blogger Sonia G. Medeiros to the interview room where she will be talking about her writing angst’ and answering those delightful questions. Please also be sure to keep an eye out for this month’s Flash Fiction Challenge -yes, I know you have been waiting in anticipation for this weeks Tuesday’ Triptych Tapestry. Anyhoo, I’m off to grab a cuppa and a much deserved break (as has Billie Jo ). *hits the schedule button and disappears*
Copyright © Ozlem Yikici 2011 & Copyright © doodllz™ 2011. All Rights Reserved.
As you already know, thoughts and comments are encouraged as always -even if it is just a word -as ‘all good discussions start with just one word‘.
If there is a topic you would like me to look into and explore in my own yikici-kind-of-way then please feel free to leave a suggestion in the comment box below or for those of you who are a wee bit shy drop me a line via my contact page or email me at admin[at]yikici[dot]co[dot]uk
Care to join me for some collaborative work or want to be a guest blogger? If so, email me at the above address.
About the author: Billie Jo Woods is a writer currently on her journey to authorhood. She mainly writes fantasy and science fiction for young adults. With several yet unpublished novels, novellas and mountains of short stories under her belt she aims to navigate her way through the modern publishing world in hopes of one day seeing her stories on the shelves of bookstores worldwide. She shares her experiences and other bits she finds along the way on her blog entitled Out of the Woods. Read more from this author