I read an interesting article courtesy M.J. Kelley (@themjkelley) and I realized that, as simple as the posed questions may sound, they simply aren’t so easy to answer when you’re on the spot. A year ago, I never thought anyone would ask me, “What do you write?” with a straight face. I have to say, my initial reaction is always, Holy shit, this person is taking me seriously as a writer! Followed immediately by, Holy shit, what am I supposed to say?
Typically, I’m able to string words together to form a coherent sentence. But when asked about my writing career, the shy part of me – the one who stammers and blushes and speaks a language that just barely passes as human – bursts forth to take the reins of the vehicle that is Jessica P. West. In an effort to help that pathetic writer in the headlights, I’m going to follow the advice of M.J. Kelley (on Facebook) and answer these 4 Everyday Questions. Then, I’m going to memorize them. I may even record myself speaking the answers aloud so that I can kill two fears with one stone.
1) So what do you do?
a) Make your answer short and simple.
b) Make it accurate and honest.
c) If you do another job, mention it.
I’m a stay at home mom who writes short fiction for my blog, Write This Way.
This is my standard response when folks ask what I do.
2) Have you published?
This one is a bit more difficult to answer, because I don’t want to just say, “No,” and end the conversation there.
Not yet, but I do have long term plans for three different novels.
3) What do you write about?
Here, Kelley advises choosing no more than three genres, and posing a follow-up question to help you determine whether or not you are wasting your potential reader’s time, and your own.
I write speculative fiction, fantasy and romance, depending on my mood. What are some books you’ve read?
Kelley further advises offering a sample of your work, perhaps a discounted or free book, to encourage a reader who is expressing an interest. After assessing the reader’s preferences, I would direct him or her to a specific story on my blog that I believe they would enjoy.
4) What are you working on right now?
Kelley advises: “don’t talk about your work-in-progress.” I agree. I always have several short projects going on at once, so my answer will be…
I’m working on a series of speculative short stories, the first of which is posted on my blog. I also participate in the occasional flash fiction contest and various writing challenges. I like to work with other writers, offering posts for their blogs or even partnering up for critiques.
Kelley turns the discussion back to finding out more about your potential reader, and I think that’s a great idea. This is typically what I do from the start of the conversation because I am, or have been heretofore, uncomfortable with this conversation.
Now that I’ve read Kelley’s article, I feel confident that I won’t be that writer who freezes when all eyes are on her. You know. The one who imagines people naked to get over her stage fright but ends up looking psycho because she gets the giggles for no apparent reason. Though to be fair, the fact that I’m a bit “eccentric” is probably why people take me seriously as a writer to begin with. Eh, I’ll still giggle, or in my case, cackle maniacally. (I’m a fan of the phrase “cackling manically”. Wrote a whole story around that phrase. Seriously. Called it Harvest. One of my first stories, written without the definite article “the”.)
And on that note, I’m off…To write!