Guest Bloggers

Andrea and I are fortunate enough to have some terrific people guest blogging for us:

About Margaret Young: 

Margaret writes the “Writers on Wednesdays” feature within our Connections series. A seasoned journalist and creative writer herself, she’s included us in wonderful conversations with talented and established writers including Ellen Sussman and Joan O’C Hamilton. If you’d like to contact Margaret about her work or about participating in this feature, please send an email to Writers On Wednesdays [all one word] {at} yahoo – and of course that’s a dot com address. To learn more about Margaret’s work, read on –

I don’t actually remember when I first knew that I was going to be writer.  It was young enough that I thought one just sort of decided these things and they happened.  Indeed, I think that was much of the appeal–unlike the world around me–when I wrote a story whatever I wanted to happen, happened.  As I also loved drawing, whatever happened, happened with illustrations.  This heavily influenced the look of my heroines–triplets, for example, who had entirely different hair colors and textures because that was more interesting to draw.  Those multi-hued triplets were the heroines of my first never-to-be-completed novel, begun at the age of nine.

When I wasn’t drawing and writing, I was reading and reading and reading.  I am one of the few people I know who used to get in trouble for reading too much, but once I got to Sarah Lawrence College, my obsessive reading habits stood me in good stead.  Oddly enough, though Sarah Lawrence is known for its writing programs and my interest was in being a writer, I did not take many writing classes there.  Part of me felt I needed to be practical and learn a trade–at the beginning I thought I’d become an anthropologist–though why I considered this a more practical notion than being a writer, I’ve no idea.

Once out of college, I began to be a little more serious about a career in writing.  I began a regency romance novel, which I didn’t quite finish.  Then I went to grad school in journalism at Stanford.  (I’d grown up in the San Francisco Bay area, gone East for college and then returned to the Bay area for grad school.  I’ve been here ever since.).  After grad school, I worked at a series of local newspapers, specializing in business journalism.  While I find writing about biotech and tech companies fascinating, I was less than thrilled with working at newspapers, the push to write all the time left me little energy or time for fiction writing.  Instead, I took up singing, then moved into free-lance editing and writing for several years.

I also started and finished another regency romance novel.  Then, after about six queries, I got an agent.  It really was one of the best days of my life.  The ensuing rejections from every regency romance publisher were not among the worst, but they were dispiriting.  It became clear to me then that one could write a good genre novel, but it wasn’t going to get picked up if the entire genre was disappearing.  I’m sorry to say that even though I understood that the rejections weren’t personal, it was hard to get back up on the horse and start over.

 It took a few years before I made another stab at a novel–this time, it was a fantasy novel.  It has a beginning, much of a middle and most of the end.  It’s 220 pages, but is still missing a critical 100.  Meanwhile, life was happening.  I married and had a child.  Then, while looking for work that was compatible with raising my daughter, my hobby of singing came into play.  I now and have for ten years taught Music Together classes, which means I sing all day long and get lots of hugs.  Which just goes to show you that something even more impractical than fiction writing can end up as a means to make a living.

Despite the satisfaction of my work, the desire to write (and to be read) never ever really vanished.  I felt discouraged, though, and uncertain that I could ever achieve my goal of being a published novelist.  I took writing workshops–one with Lolly Winston led me to Ellen Sussman’s Novel-in-a-year course.  I knew, by then, that I needed the structure Ellen’s class could provide.

It worked.  I wrote another novel–this time about a group of women in Silicon Valley.  I wanted to take the standard trope of a woman’s novel and subvert it slightly, using the surface  it to create a portrait of Silicon Valley that veered from the usual hot start-up saga and to also quietly examine how changing technologies change our lives without our full awareness.

I like the novel, but even as I wrote about how technology has influenced our lives, I came back to the publishing world and started hearing all about “social platforms” and “self-branding”.  Yes, one of my characters ends up with a Twitter account, but I didn’t have one.

So, I am, once again, in the process of looking for an agent.  (Two down, umpteen to go.)  Meanwhile, I’m trying to get back in the swim of things.  I’m not that comfortable writing about myself, but I love to find out about other people, thus my offer to Ina to guest-blog with some Q&As with writers I admire.  I hope you enjoy them.

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