Blog Archive

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Writing your Life: Author Interview with Judy Watters

Your first book, The Road Home, is your own history that you wrote for your family so they would understand their legacy. How was it received? Did it spark others in your family to write their own memoirs?
Family and friends loved my first book. Some extended family members learned for the first time of my father’s past in the Jewish orphanage and his later travels at sea. School friends I grew up with enjoyed hearing about the “behind the scenes” antics of my family. In the back of that book, I left writing prompts for each chapter. A few people have told me that they have used those prompts and began writing a few stories of their own.

In writing that book, you branched out in helping others write their own family stories. Tell me about that process? What has inspired you the most in helping others?
When I was finishing The Road Home, I taught what was to be a 6-class legacy-writing course. Five years later, we still meet twice a month to hone our craft of writing and to complete memoir pieces. We have laughed and cried with each other while listening to family stories. Three of the women from our legacy-writing group have published their memoirs, another one has almost completed hers, and a fifth lady has published a Bible study. Three others are in various stages of writing their stories. We even published our own anthology on Amazon: Moments in Time: Hill Country Legacy Writers Anthology Volume I. We hope to have Volume 2 out in the spring of 2018.

What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?
In The Road Home, I organized my memoirs into life lessons that my siblings and I learned growing up on the farm in Pennsylvania. My greatest encouragement has been to have readers tell me that even though they didn’t grow up on a farm, my stories triggered memories of their youth and the same universal life lessons that they learned. 

I had one woman tell me that she read one chapter of my book to her mom every week when she visited her at the nursing home. Within the first chapter, her mom spoke for the first time in a year and stories from her mom’s past that her daughter never knew were triggered by my stories. I love to hear people say that my book made them laugh and cry out loud.

We have all experienced rejection with our writing. Give me an example of one
you’ve had, and how you learned to write past it.
I have written and submitted “several” short stories, literary essays, and magazine articles that never were published. I say “several” because I know very prolific writers who will attest to the fact that they have had hundreds of articles rejected. 

In a way, their rejections have encouraged me to keep submitting. If I keep doing all the right things, the law of averages will catch up with my writings. What would my law of averages be if I never submitted at all? As long as I enjoy the process and love what I’m doing, I’ll keep writing and submitting.

You've also joined with a few other people to continue a publishing company. What is your part in the company?
Yes, when my publisher and writing buddy passed away, I was devastated. He had worked so hard at growing his publishing business. When his widow talked about shutting down Franklin Scribes Publishing, I discussed the situation with a friend and together, we offered to purchase the company. After several days, John’s widow told us that she couldn’t sell it; John would want us to keep it going. The publishing learning curve has been tough; however, Sandy and I have helped seven new authors to see their work in print and are working with several more at this time.

What has surprised you the most in writing/publishing? What frustrated you the most?
Writing non-fiction comes easy for me. It’s the life I have lived, so I’m a pro at writing my own life. I wrote fiction short stories for two years for the public school STAAR tests. It surprised me that writing fiction took some deeper thought through plots and twists and turns. I would love to write a mystery someday. 

Frustration always sets in when I think my book is done, because that’s only the beginning. The revising seems to take forever; there’s always another misplaced comma or modifier I hadn’t caught in the first five edits. And then comes the marketing, which is an entirely different ball game.

What do you know now about writing that you wished you had known sooner?
Keeping your BIC (butt in chair) and writing consistently is the name of the game. A writer only gets better with more writing—and reading. I believe the writing in my third book is better than in my first because I have read many other memoirs and written so much more using different types of writing styles, such as lists and literary essays.

What is some of the best writing advice that you’ve received or could give?
Take time (and reserve money) to attend writing conferences. The speakers will inspire you to hurry home and put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Rubbing shoulders with so many other writers will infuse you with the energy just knowing you aren’t in this alone. Make new friends at conferences who you can stay in touch with and perhaps collaborate in an online critique of each other’s work.

Are there any other points about writing that you would like to add?
Find a local critique group. If there isn’t one in your area, start one at your local library. Invest yourself in other writers’ lives and you will be inspired to be a better writer yourself. Also, write a review on Goodreads for every book you read. The writing community needs to encourage each other as much as possible.

What is the next book that will be coming out? Can you give me a short synopsis?
My second book, How to Hitchhike from Texas to California in 3 Days in 14 Easy Steps, came out this spring. My third book, which should be out on Amazon by November 15, is Panning for Gold in Our Golden Year: A Journal for Positive Aging. In this memoir-based journal, I tell stories of my ninety-six-year-old mom and how she faced every new challenge that came with aging in a positive light. 

My hope is that this book will be an encouragement for those who are at this season of their lives or are caring for an older person. Through laughing (and sometimes crying) at the different obstacles set before Mom, the reader will see that life is still worth the living…yes, even when planning your own funeral.

That’s all for today’s interview. If you’d like to learn more about Judy’s writing, here are some links to get you started.

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