sherry isaac

THE CRAFT OF COFFEE HOUSE READING

At some time, every author will be asked to read their work aloud. Print, ebook, fiction, non-fiction, adult novel, chilren’s book, there will be a seminar, a writer’s workshop, a reader’s gathering, a Thanksgiving dinner with the family…and you will be asked to read.

I specifically requested this post from Sherry because I heard her read when we were at a class together at Margie Lawson’s home in Colorado. I was charmed. Mesmerized. Enchanted. Not only is Sherry a stellar author, she is an amazing reader.

And as I draw near my debut release, scheduling appearances and workshops, I know I need to learn how to read my work aloud. After hearing Sherry’s expertise, I knew there was no better place to learn.

GIVEAWAY: Sherry is generously offering a copy of her short story collection, Storyteller, to be awarded to a random commenter. Share your favorite editing tool or reading experience and you could win! (Must share your email as well.)

THE CRAFT OF COFFEE HOUSE READING
By Sherry Isaac

Of all the phobias in the world, public speaking is one of the most commonly shared. For new writers, sharing their work with another can be terrifying, even if the other person is a trusted friend.

No wonder. When we write, we put a little of our soul on the page.

No surprise, then, that the idea of reading in front of an audience paralyzes many authors.

In the words of Women of the Underworld author Kelley Armstrong, “While publishers do want you to have a website (and Facebook and Twitter and blog and an endless list of other online “opportunities”) it doesn’t replace the need to get out to stores and conventions and readings.”

Storyteller Launch at Prana Cafe, Toronto
Photo by J. Nichole Noel
Perhaps that is why sites like Goodreads are so popular: that connection between writer and reader, storyteller and audience.

Ah. The audience. If we want to sell, we need an audience. What better way to build an audience as you journey toward the publication of your first book, than to share your genius in the neighbourhood library or cafe?

Storytelling is an age-old tradition. As writers, we have the honour, and the obligation, to play our part.

So, what makes a good read? While there isn’t the space to fit all of the details into one blog post, we can explore five basic elements.

Length

Audience time is limited, and so is your time behind the mike. 8-10 minutes makes a good read. Longer, and you risk losing your audience.

Always check with your host in advance. You may only have two!

Storyteller Launch at Prana Cafe, Toronto
Photo by J. Nichole Noel

Style

Keep your audience engaged with humor, light tales, or stories alive with action. This doesn’t mean you have to write Hollywood crash ‘em up car chases, but avoid long streams of heavy narration.

Put aside the tear-jerkers and go for something up tempo. Not that sad or poignant tales don’t work, but since you’re probably not privy to what other authors are bringing, go with the light stuff. Too much sad material can wear an audience down, but an audience won’t be disappointed if every story has them on the edge of their bistro seat, or rolling in the library aisle.

Audience

Keep your listening audience in mind. The venue you are reading at may not be the best place to share your political views, or explore the first draft of your erotica novel.

Time

To me, a polished read revolves around two basic, principles: time allotment, and time spend in rehearsal.

Time allotment is straight forward. If you don’t know what your time allotment at a reading venue is, ask. Then, select a piece based on that answer.

Don’t count on your host to stop you when you’ve reached your time limit. They won’t. Because it’s rude. But, it is more rude to ignore your time limit so choose courtesy instead and use a timer.

I repeat, use a timer.

We’re writers. We are in love with our words. Just like we hate to hit that delete button and destroy our little darlings, we want–once we get over the cafe reading heebee jeebies, that is–to share them out loud with the whole wide world.

Resist the temptation to go over. A paragraph turns into a page turns into two more minutes and the next thing you know, you’ve gone over time.If your piece does not fit into the allotted time, do not read faster. Choose a different piece, or consider a cliff-hanger. It works. Viewers all over the world waited an entire summer to find out who killed JR!

Rehearsal

Try on the clothes you plan to wear. Practice eye contact by rehearsing in front of a mirror. Allow for pauses, pay attention to pacing.

Rehearse with your timer! Rehearse and rehearse and rehearse. Then, like the nuances of a familiar song, you will know when to pause, when to look up, when to soften your voice.

Rehearsing your piece out loud is a great editing tool. And who couldn’t use a neat and easy editing tool?

GIVEAWAY: A copy of my short story collection, Storyteller, will be awarded to a random commenter. Share your favorite editing tool or reading experience and you could win! (Must share your email as well.)

MAGGIE finalist and winner of The Alice Munro Short Story Award, Sherry Isaac’s tales of life, love and forgiveness transcend all things, including the grave. Sherry represents one-third of the Romance & Beyond blog trio. Visit her website, sherryisaac.com, like Sherry on Facebook, become a fan on Goodreads, and follow her on Twitter.

>THE CRAFT OF COFFEE HOUSE READING

>

At some time, every author will be asked to read their work aloud. Print, ebook, fiction, non-fiction, adult novel, chilren’s book, there will be a seminar, a writer’s workshop, a reader’s gathering, a Thanksgiving dinner with the family…and you will be asked to read.

I specifically requested this post from Sherry because I heard her read when we were at a class together at Margie Lawson’s home in Colorado. I was charmed. Mesmerized. Enchanted. Not only is Sherry a stellar author, she is an amazing reader.

And as I draw near my debut release, scheduling appearances and workshops, I know I need to learn how to read my work aloud. After hearing Sherry’s expertise, I knew there was no better place to learn.

GIVEAWAY: Sherry is generously offering a copy of her short story collection, Storyteller, to be awarded to a random commenter. Share your favorite editing tool or reading experience and you could win! (Must share your email as well.)

THE CRAFT OF COFFEE HOUSE READING
By Sherry Isaac

Of all the phobias in the world, public speaking is one of the most commonly shared. For new writers, sharing their work with another can be terrifying, even if the other person is a trusted friend.

No wonder. When we write, we put a little of our soul on the page.

No surprise, then, that the idea of reading in front of an audience paralyzes many authors.

In the words of Women of the Underworld author Kelley Armstrong, “While publishers do want you to have a website (and Facebook and Twitter and blog and an endless list of other online “opportunities”) it doesn’t replace the need to get out to stores and conventions and readings.”

Storyteller Launch at Prana Cafe, Toronto
Photo by J. Nichole Noel
Perhaps that is why sites like Goodreads are so popular: that connection between writer and reader, storyteller and audience.

Ah. The audience. If we want to sell, we need an audience. What better way to build an audience as you journey toward the publication of your first book, than to share your genius in the neighbourhood library or cafe?

Storytelling is an age-old tradition. As writers, we have the honour, and the obligation, to play our part.

So, what makes a good read? While there isn’t the space to fit all of the details into one blog post, we can explore five basic elements.

Length

Audience time is limited, and so is your time behind the mike. 8-10 minutes makes a good read. Longer, and you risk losing your audience.

Always check with your host in advance. You may only have two!

Storyteller Launch at Prana Cafe, Toronto
Photo by J. Nichole Noel

Style

Keep your audience engaged with humor, light tales, or stories alive with action. This doesn’t mean you have to write Hollywood crash ‘em up car chases, but avoid long streams of heavy narration.

Put aside the tear-jerkers and go for something up tempo. Not that sad or poignant tales don’t work, but since you’re probably not privy to what other authors are bringing, go with the light stuff. Too much sad material can wear an audience down, but an audience won’t be disappointed if every story has them on the edge of their bistro seat, or rolling in the library aisle.

Audience

Keep your listening audience in mind. The venue you are reading at may not be the best place to share your political views, or explore the first draft of your erotica novel.

Time

To me, a polished read revolves around two basic, principles: time allotment, and time spend in rehearsal.

Time allotment is straight forward. If you don’t know what your time allotment at a reading venue is, ask. Then, select a piece based on that answer.

Don’t count on your host to stop you when you’ve reached your time limit. They won’t. Because it’s rude. But, it is more rude to ignore your time limit so choose courtesy instead and use a timer.

I repeat, use a timer.

We’re writers. We are in love with our words. Just like we hate to hit that delete button and destroy our little darlings, we want–once we get over the cafe reading heebee jeebies, that is–to share them out loud with the whole wide world.

Resist the temptation to go over. A paragraph turns into a page turns into two more minutes and the next thing you know, you’ve gone over time.If your piece does not fit into the allotted time, do not read faster. Choose a different piece, or consider a cliff-hanger. It works. Viewers all over the world waited an entire summer to find out who killed JR!

Rehearsal

Try on the clothes you plan to wear. Practice eye contact by rehearsing in front of a mirror. Allow for pauses, pay attention to pacing.

Rehearse with your timer! Rehearse and rehearse and rehearse. Then, like the nuances of a familiar song, you will know when to pause, when to look up, when to soften your voice.

Rehearsing your piece out loud is a great editing tool. And who couldn’t use a neat and easy editing tool?

GIVEAWAY: A copy of my short story collection, Storyteller, will be awarded to a random commenter. Share your favorite editing tool or reading experience and you could win! (Must share your email as well.)

MAGGIE finalist and winner of The Alice Munro Short Story Award, Sherry Isaac’s tales of life, love and forgiveness transcend all things, including the grave. Sherry represents one-third of the Romance & Beyond blog trio. Visit her website, sherryisaac.com, like Sherry on Facebook, become a fan on Goodreads, and follow her on Twitter.

>Interview + Giveaway with Author Sherry Isaac!

>

Sherry Isaac is an exquisitely talented author with a new release out! A beautiful book of short stories entitled STORYTELLER. This is Sherry’s second visit with me on One Word at a Time. Last week she spoke about Imagination. This week we’ll learn more about Sherry’s journey to publication and her views on writing.

For last weeks post: Click here.
For her Ruby Slippered Sisterhood post on writing short: Click here.

Remember to comment or post a question for Sherry to be entered to WIN:
 1 of 5 custom bookmarks pictured below.  (Internat.)
And a copy of STORYTELLER (US/Can)

I first met Sherry Isaac at Margie Lawson’s Immersion Master Class where 7 writers were corralled at Margie’s mountainside home in Colorado for a week of 10+ hour days of writing and critiquing and learning. It was an amazing experience and I recommend Margie’s classes to everyone! I hope to find an Immersion Master Class II to attend soon.

Within a few hours of meeting Sherry I adored her. She is one of those easy-going, fun-loving, warm individuals who can make you feel like you’ve known them forever. Within a day of meeting her I was awed by the breadth of her writing ability.

Sherry is an amazing author and an even better friend. Her first collection of shorts, STORYTELLER, debuted last month, July 2011.

Welcome, Sherry!!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What is your favorite story in the new collection, STORYTELLER? Why? 

Ask this question on a different day and you’ll get a different answer. Today I’ll say, A Love of Reading.

The weather is great and I’ve been working in my garden and sprucing up the lawn. Grandpa would be proud. My grandfather always had the prettiest garden, the plumpest tomatoes, the softest, greenest grass, the ‘bloomiest’ flowers.

Eight, maybe ten years ago, I heard a story about my grandparents no one had shared before. It was how they met. While the rest of A Love of Reading has nothing to do with my grandparents’ lives other than their till-death-do-us-part devotion, when I heard the story of how they met, I knew I’d have to use it some day. When Simon and Lila’s story came to me, I knew I’d found the right story to honour that snippet of my grandparents’ lives. I don’t know how their first conversation was sparked. I don’t know what Grandpa said to Grandma. But I know they met at Woolworth’s in downtown Winnipeg on a Wednesday. And I know they ended up spending a scandalous afternoon in the park…Kissing!

How hard has launching your book been? Were there any surprises?

Yikes.

The biggest surprise was the amount of time it takes, so start early. I’d read a lot and felt prepared in terms of what to try, and what might be a waste of time. I built a small platform through keeping in touch with class and workshop mates and doing readings. I don’t know what I’d do now or where to start had I not spent all of my writing days leading up to this point doing exactly those things.

I recently took an online class in growing your audience, and had already come across and applied most of the information prior to this class so in that regard, I felt I was ahead of the game. But the time commitment is unreal. It reaffirmed my decision to start early.

If I could have, I’d have reached through the screen and gently smacked the handful of writers in that class who didn’t feel it was necessary to start a website or blog or other form of internet presence, including commenting or guest blogging, until they had a contract in hand.

I’ve had my website up for almost two years. When I think of all the tweaking and starting over from scratch that I did? It’s akin to writing a novel. Trash this, revise that. Highlight this, emphasize that. Reshuffle, reorganize, redesign. And that’s just the website!

Network. Network network network. Network till your fingers bleed.Throw a pebble in your pond the circle will expand outward. Throw a pebble in your pond and a pond in California and a pond in Texas and a pond in Colorado and a pond in British Columbia, and the circles will expand outward and overlap.

Can you talk about the writing journey? How long has the road been and how hard? 

I played with the notion of writing for years, as long as memory, and even indulged in a few courses along the way, but it was early in 2001 that I admitted out loud that I wanted to write. Early in 2004 I went to a workshop on getting published, curious but prepared for a scam, some pond thing feeding off the naive dreams of others.

It so wasn’t.

Workshops and classes continued, I immersed myself in classes, critiques, books on writing craft, became part of a critique group. Becoming part of the writing community helped me stay focused and BELIEVE!

Hard? Depends on your definition of the word. If you consider an oak plank swung against your forehead at a hundred kilometers an hour hard, then yes. Very. Painful, too, and it leaves one heck of a mark. Splinters break through the skin and seep into your soft brain tissue, become embedded, make you who you are.

What makes a writer stick with it?

Knee-jerk answer? Insanity.

Serious hat on now. It can be really hard to take the rejection, to sort through conflicting feedback, to continue to learn your craft while pushing through to the end of your manuscript. Before you have a book published, its hard to be taken seriously as a writer. For some, if you’re not paid, not published, the simple act of writing doesn’t qualify as being a writer.

Most important, as solitary as writing is, I would never have grown–as a writer and as a person–or seen publication without the support of fellow writers. This goes for critiquing too. Criticism can be hard to hear, but you don’t improve by being told your writing is perfect. My writing peers are my lifeline. Their encouragement, our shared successes and failures, are invaluable. There is so much to know. We learn from each other. And when we succeed, we have precious friends to share in the success. When a friend wins a contest, gets a great review, signs a contract, I whoop for joy.

Your trademark seems to be your surprise endings. Do they come to you first as you write or are they a surprise to you, too?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. What You Wish For was a no. I worked through all the scenes and got to the point where I didn’t know what else I could do with the story plot wise. Megan had already written, what was it, five letters at that point. The crux was made. I had to wrap it up. Then a tickle of delight as I realized how to end the story. It was all there, I just had to go back and make sure the links were clear, emphasize this, make a casual mention of that, tweak that other thing, so at the end all the clues added up.

Your story, Sweet Dreams, is masterfully developed. How much rewriting did it and other stories take?

Wow. I don’t know if I deserve that compliment, but I’ll take it! Sweet Dreams just sort of happened. The story grew out of a creative writing assignment from instructor extraordinaire Brian Henry: to write about someone who comes to a decision over a cup of tea. The original draft was scribbled out in a 20-minute session, but I knew there was something there and other than some light housekeeping, clarity and a little expansion, it remained pretty much intact. Sometimes the subconscious takes over. Not that Sweet Dreams reveals any secret desires on my part. It’s dark fun, but fun all the same. Hm. I probably shouldn’t mention that my husband snores.

What about the short story format intrigues you?

Aside from feeling a sense of accomplishment after 3000 words? The scope is narrow. Less characters, one plot thread, allows me to zero in on the issue without weaving in other elements or keeping track of other character’s goals and motivations. This more linear route to storytelling should be easier, but the stripped down aspect makes it harder to hide. Every word always counts, but in a short story there isn’t time to develop the scene or play around with setting or character traits. Characterization, goals, conflict, motivation, setting–it all has to be clear right out of the gate.
What really surprises me is that I not only can write short stories, but that I enjoy it. I never thought I could, or would.

Have you tried any other genres?

This question makes me smile. My critique group and I have had this conversation many times. What is Sherry’s genre? And that was a difficulty in trying to summarize the theme of this collection. Short stories were a way to earn publishing credits while I sought the holy grail: an agent for my novels. I never wrote them with the intention of putting together a collection. I write mystery, I write suspense, I write about ghosts and prickly paranormal chills and stories with strong romantic elements. I’ve written for younger audiences, too, though none of that work appears in Storyteller.

The summary of Storyteller turned out to be ‘tales of life, love and forgiveness that transcend space, time and even the grave.

When you read Alice Munro do you read as anyone would or are your thoughts sidetracked with observations of craft?

Confession time. I am a terrible, terrible Canadian. I haven’t read a lot of Alice Munro–there’s so much! I’ve barely nicked the iceberg!–and what I read was pre I’m-serious-about-my-writing days. Because of the ‘when’ I wouldn’t have read her work comparatively, nor the work of Margaret Laurence, Margaret Atwood. Or Carolyn Keene, for that matter.

With years of practice and instruction behind me I’ve become a more critical reader. I tend to pick up on things that I’m sensitive to, things that were bad habits I worked hard to break. A recent read was a thriller by a well-known author. I knew his name and several friends recommended I read his work. The thriller was fast-paced, intriguing, great characterizations, juicy plot, but he had a thing for the gerund. Was sitting instead of sat. Was thinking instead of thought. Was pacing instead of paced. I wanted to correct those gerunds because that’s what I look for and nix in my work. A little habit I reversed during NaNo. All those wases added up!

When in the hands of a capable writer (Sue Grafton, Lynda Simmons, Harlen Coben) I am carried away on their ocean of words and don’t notice a thing, other than great writing and the jealous monster that whispers in my head, ‘Why didn’t you think of that?’

How much reading do you do and what do you read most?

I’ve always had a book on the go. When I became more serious about writing I made a point of reading more, and keeping track of the books I read, as well as reading other genres and authors I wasn’t familiar with. I try to balance fiction with non-fiction 2 to 1, since there are so many topics that intrigue me. In 2008 I read 33 books, a personal best. The number slid in 2009 and in 2010 I read 19 books, a testament to how much more I am writing.

The mystery/suspense genre will always be my favourite.

What or who gives you the energy to keep going when the blocks come? Or do they come?

Energy? Where? Have you been reading fairy tales again?

Balance. Critiquing partners and I are always talking balance. Balance is different for everyone. For me it’s time outs with family, tea with a friend, getting in touch with writers in an informal setting, like a reading or a retreat or just dinner. I like to putter in my garden. I like to read. Exercise is great. A walk at the water’s edge. These things recharge my batteries and I’m amazed at how sticky points in a manuscript or character sketch can come together if I take a step away and let perspective slip things into place when I’m not looking. But it’s important to come back to the work.

I don’t really buy into the ‘writer’s block’ phenomenon. One good writing chum puts it this way: does your server in a restaurant get server’s block? I’m sure there are writers out there who would argue that it’s real but for me, blocks, if they do exist, come from within. If I’m stumped, I look for the why. If I’m not sure where to take a plot point, I let it simmer and work on another chapter, do a bit of research, rethink a character.

Sometimes I’m ‘blocked’ because something isn’t working. Trust and tap into the subconscious. It could be telling you something important. Maybe a character’s consistency of motivation is off, maybe a weak plot point is treading a twisting path to nowhere. Stepping away helps. Returning to the work is crucial.

What do you know now about establishing yourself as a writer that you wish you had known in the beginning? When was the beginning?

There were false starts along the way, but the official beginning would have been that workshop in 2004.

In the beginning I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I thought I was a literary genius. That’s part of the curve. Seven years later, I know that I’m not a literary genius, but I am a better writer than I was seven years ago.

*Interview reprinted with permission from Elaine Cougler and Sherry Isaac.

Remember to comment or post a question for Sherry to be entered to WIN:
1 of 5 custom bookmarks pictured below. (Internat.)
And a copy of STORYTELLER (US/Can)

*MUST leave a contact email to WIN*

Winner of The Alice Munro Short Story Award, Sherry Isaac’s tales of life, love and forgiveness that transcend all things, including the grave, appear online and in print. Her first collection of shorts, Storyteller, debuts July 2011. For more information, or to order an autographed copy, click HERE.

Interview + Giveaway with Author Sherry Isaac!

>

Sherry Isaac is an exquisitely talented author with a new release out! A beautiful book of short stories entitled STORYTELLER. This is Sherry’s second visit with me on One Word at a Time. Last week she spoke about Imagination. This week we’ll learn more about Sherry’s journey to publication and her views on writing.

For last weeks post: Click here.
For her Ruby Slippered Sisterhood post on writing short: Click here.

Remember to comment or post a question for Sherry to be entered to WIN:
 1 of 5 custom bookmarks pictured below.  (Internat.)
And a copy of STORYTELLER (US/Can)

I first met Sherry Isaac at Margie Lawson’s Immersion Master Class where 7 writers were corralled at Margie’s mountainside home in Colorado for a week of 10+ hour days of writing and critiquing and learning. It was an amazing experience and I recommend Margie’s classes to everyone! I hope to find an Immersion Master Class II to attend soon.

Within a few hours of meeting Sherry I adored her. She is one of those easy-going, fun-loving, warm individuals who can make you feel like you’ve known them forever. Within a day of meeting her I was awed by the breadth of her writing ability.

Sherry is an amazing author and an even better friend. Her first collection of shorts, STORYTELLER, debuted last month, July 2011.

Welcome, Sherry!!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What is your favorite story in the new collection, STORYTELLER? Why? 

Ask this question on a different day and you’ll get a different answer. Today I’ll say, A Love of Reading.

The weather is great and I’ve been working in my garden and sprucing up the lawn. Grandpa would be proud. My grandfather always had the prettiest garden, the plumpest tomatoes, the softest, greenest grass, the ‘bloomiest’ flowers.

Eight, maybe ten years ago, I heard a story about my grandparents no one had shared before. It was how they met. While the rest of A Love of Reading has nothing to do with my grandparents’ lives other than their till-death-do-us-part devotion, when I heard the story of how they met, I knew I’d have to use it some day. When Simon and Lila’s story came to me, I knew I’d found the right story to honour that snippet of my grandparents’ lives. I don’t know how their first conversation was sparked. I don’t know what Grandpa said to Grandma. But I know they met at Woolworth’s in downtown Winnipeg on a Wednesday. And I know they ended up spending a scandalous afternoon in the park…Kissing!

How hard has launching your book been? Were there any surprises?

Yikes.

The biggest surprise was the amount of time it takes, so start early. I’d read a lot and felt prepared in terms of what to try, and what might be a waste of time. I built a small platform through keeping in touch with class and workshop mates and doing readings. I don’t know what I’d do now or where to start had I not spent all of my writing days leading up to this point doing exactly those things.

I recently took an online class in growing your audience, and had already come across and applied most of the information prior to this class so in that regard, I felt I was ahead of the game. But the time commitment is unreal. It reaffirmed my decision to start early.

If I could have, I’d have reached through the screen and gently smacked the handful of writers in that class who didn’t feel it was necessary to start a website or blog or other form of internet presence, including commenting or guest blogging, until they had a contract in hand.

I’ve had my website up for almost two years. When I think of all the tweaking and starting over from scratch that I did? It’s akin to writing a novel. Trash this, revise that. Highlight this, emphasize that. Reshuffle, reorganize, redesign. And that’s just the website!

Network. Network network network. Network till your fingers bleed.Throw a pebble in your pond the circle will expand outward. Throw a pebble in your pond and a pond in California and a pond in Texas and a pond in Colorado and a pond in British Columbia, and the circles will expand outward and overlap.

Can you talk about the writing journey? How long has the road been and how hard? 

I played with the notion of writing for years, as long as memory, and even indulged in a few courses along the way, but it was early in 2001 that I admitted out loud that I wanted to write. Early in 2004 I went to a workshop on getting published, curious but prepared for a scam, some pond thing feeding off the naive dreams of others.

It so wasn’t.

Workshops and classes continued, I immersed myself in classes, critiques, books on writing craft, became part of a critique group. Becoming part of the writing community helped me stay focused and BELIEVE!

Hard? Depends on your definition of the word. If you consider an oak plank swung against your forehead at a hundred kilometers an hour hard, then yes. Very. Painful, too, and it leaves one heck of a mark. Splinters break through the skin and seep into your soft brain tissue, become embedded, make you who you are.

What makes a writer stick with it?

Knee-jerk answer? Insanity.

Serious hat on now. It can be really hard to take the rejection, to sort through conflicting feedback, to continue to learn your craft while pushing through to the end of your manuscript. Before you have a book published, its hard to be taken seriously as a writer. For some, if you’re not paid, not published, the simple act of writing doesn’t qualify as being a writer.

Most important, as solitary as writing is, I would never have grown–as a writer and as a person–or seen publication without the support of fellow writers. This goes for critiquing too. Criticism can be hard to hear, but you don’t improve by being told your writing is perfect. My writing peers are my lifeline. Their encouragement, our shared successes and failures, are invaluable. There is so much to know. We learn from each other. And when we succeed, we have precious friends to share in the success. When a friend wins a contest, gets a great review, signs a contract, I whoop for joy.

Your trademark seems to be your surprise endings. Do they come to you first as you write or are they a surprise to you, too?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. What You Wish For was a no. I worked through all the scenes and got to the point where I didn’t know what else I could do with the story plot wise. Megan had already written, what was it, five letters at that point. The crux was made. I had to wrap it up. Then a tickle of delight as I realized how to end the story. It was all there, I just had to go back and make sure the links were clear, emphasize this, make a casual mention of that, tweak that other thing, so at the end all the clues added up.

Your story, Sweet Dreams, is masterfully developed. How much rewriting did it and other stories take?

Wow. I don’t know if I deserve that compliment, but I’ll take it! Sweet Dreams just sort of happened. The story grew out of a creative writing assignment from instructor extraordinaire Brian Henry: to write about someone who comes to a decision over a cup of tea. The original draft was scribbled out in a 20-minute session, but I knew there was something there and other than some light housekeeping, clarity and a little expansion, it remained pretty much intact. Sometimes the subconscious takes over. Not that Sweet Dreams reveals any secret desires on my part. It’s dark fun, but fun all the same. Hm. I probably shouldn’t mention that my husband snores.

What about the short story format intrigues you?

Aside from feeling a sense of accomplishment after 3000 words? The scope is narrow. Less characters, one plot thread, allows me to zero in on the issue without weaving in other elements or keeping track of other character’s goals and motivations. This more linear route to storytelling should be easier, but the stripped down aspect makes it harder to hide. Every word always counts, but in a short story there isn’t time to develop the scene or play around with setting or character traits. Characterization, goals, conflict, motivation, setting–it all has to be clear right out of the gate.
What really surprises me is that I not only can write short stories, but that I enjoy it. I never thought I could, or would.

Have you tried any other genres?

This question makes me smile. My critique group and I have had this conversation many times. What is Sherry’s genre? And that was a difficulty in trying to summarize the theme of this collection. Short stories were a way to earn publishing credits while I sought the holy grail: an agent for my novels. I never wrote them with the intention of putting together a collection. I write mystery, I write suspense, I write about ghosts and prickly paranormal chills and stories with strong romantic elements. I’ve written for younger audiences, too, though none of that work appears in Storyteller.

The summary of Storyteller turned out to be ‘tales of life, love and forgiveness that transcend space, time and even the grave.

When you read Alice Munro do you read as anyone would or are your thoughts sidetracked with observations of craft?

Confession time. I am a terrible, terrible Canadian. I haven’t read a lot of Alice Munro–there’s so much! I’ve barely nicked the iceberg!–and what I read was pre I’m-serious-about-my-writing days. Because of the ‘when’ I wouldn’t have read her work comparatively, nor the work of Margaret Laurence, Margaret Atwood. Or Carolyn Keene, for that matter.

With years of practice and instruction behind me I’ve become a more critical reader. I tend to pick up on things that I’m sensitive to, things that were bad habits I worked hard to break. A recent read was a thriller by a well-known author. I knew his name and several friends recommended I read his work. The thriller was fast-paced, intriguing, great characterizations, juicy plot, but he had a thing for the gerund. Was sitting instead of sat. Was thinking instead of thought. Was pacing instead of paced. I wanted to correct those gerunds because that’s what I look for and nix in my work. A little habit I reversed during NaNo. All those wases added up!

When in the hands of a capable writer (Sue Grafton, Lynda Simmons, Harlen Coben) I am carried away on their ocean of words and don’t notice a thing, other than great writing and the jealous monster that whispers in my head, ‘Why didn’t you think of that?’

How much reading do you do and what do you read most?

I’ve always had a book on the go. When I became more serious about writing I made a point of reading more, and keeping track of the books I read, as well as reading other genres and authors I wasn’t familiar with. I try to balance fiction with non-fiction 2 to 1, since there are so many topics that intrigue me. In 2008 I read 33 books, a personal best. The number slid in 2009 and in 2010 I read 19 books, a testament to how much more I am writing.

The mystery/suspense genre will always be my favourite.

What or who gives you the energy to keep going when the blocks come? Or do they come?

Energy? Where? Have you been reading fairy tales again?

Balance. Critiquing partners and I are always talking balance. Balance is different for everyone. For me it’s time outs with family, tea with a friend, getting in touch with writers in an informal setting, like a reading or a retreat or just dinner. I like to putter in my garden. I like to read. Exercise is great. A walk at the water’s edge. These things recharge my batteries and I’m amazed at how sticky points in a manuscript or character sketch can come together if I take a step away and let perspective slip things into place when I’m not looking. But it’s important to come back to the work.

I don’t really buy into the ‘writer’s block’ phenomenon. One good writing chum puts it this way: does your server in a restaurant get server’s block? I’m sure there are writers out there who would argue that it’s real but for me, blocks, if they do exist, come from within. If I’m stumped, I look for the why. If I’m not sure where to take a plot point, I let it simmer and work on another chapter, do a bit of research, rethink a character.

Sometimes I’m ‘blocked’ because something isn’t working. Trust and tap into the subconscious. It could be telling you something important. Maybe a character’s consistency of motivation is off, maybe a weak plot point is treading a twisting path to nowhere. Stepping away helps. Returning to the work is crucial.

What do you know now about establishing yourself as a writer that you wish you had known in the beginning? When was the beginning?

There were false starts along the way, but the official beginning would have been that workshop in 2004.

In the beginning I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I thought I was a literary genius. That’s part of the curve. Seven years later, I know that I’m not a literary genius, but I am a better writer than I was seven years ago.

*Interview reprinted with permission from Elaine Cougler and Sherry Isaac.

Remember to comment or post a question for Sherry to be entered to WIN:
1 of 5 custom bookmarks pictured below. (Internat.)
And a copy of STORYTELLER (US/Can)

*MUST leave a contact email to WIN*

Winner of The Alice Munro Short Story Award, Sherry Isaac’s tales of life, love and forgiveness that transcend all things, including the grave, appear online and in print. Her first collection of shorts, Storyteller, debuts July 2011. For more information, or to order an autographed copy, click HERE.

Author Sherry Isaac on Imagination + Excerpt + Giveaway

>My guest today, Sherry Isaac is an amazing writer and an even better friend. Her first collection of shorts, STORYTELLER, debuted last month, July 2011.

She will be giving away one copy of her book and 5 custom made bookmarks. Post a comment or ask a question to enter!

Welcome, Sherry!!

KNOWLEDGE PLANTS THE SEED. IMAGINATION MAKES IT BLOOM.
by Sherry Isaac
 


Write what you know.
That’s the advice we’re given when we start to write, but what does it mean? Does it mean that, because I don’t know a Phillips from a Robertson, a mallet from a hammer, a G-clamp from an A-frame, my hero can’t be a carpenter?
If it does, then it’s re-write time again.
True, author John Grisham (A Time To Kill, The Chamber) uses his knowledge and experience as a lawyer to write his legal thrillers. But did Anne Rice actually interview a vampire?
Or did she draw on her knowledge of New Orleans and the gothic impressions of the ornately decorated churches of her childhood, and fill in the rest with imagination?
Don’t know about you and Stephenie Meyer, but I’m going with the latter.
When looking for a starting point in a story, nuggets of truth are a great place to find inspiration. It is imagination that dictates where the story will go, and how it will end.
My maternal grandparents, Isaac and Katie, are gone, but a year or so before my grandfather, who went first, passed, I heard a story. A story of how they met.
Isaac and Katie both fled Russia in the days following the revolution. Isaac ended up in Winnipeg, Katie in Ste. Anne, a small farming community southeast of the city.
Isaac, educated and wealthy in his homeland, retired a machinist. I don’t know where he worked or what he did in the twenties, but suspect it was factory-oriented. As the story went, Isaac and his cousin knew where to go to meet girls.
And on what day.
Like many girls her age at the time, Katie worked as a domestic in the city, and Wednesday was the standard day off. Woolworth’s on Portage Avenue, in the heart of downtown Winnipeg, was the place to meet their girlfriends and ‘spend their earnings on ox-blood lipstick and the new flesh-colored stockings that were al the rage’.
There are a lot of blanks in the story. Who caught whose eye, who said what, and how a chance meeting turned into a life-long love is a mystery. In the end, a fact: In a city park, under the shade of a tree, my grandparents shared their first afternoon together.
A scandalous afternoon spent… Kissing!!!
Grandpa, you sly dog.
What I knew for sure when I started to write seriously was that someday I would write a piece honoring Isaac and Katie’s lifetime devotion.
Isaac had a steadfast rule: Never ask a girl out more than twice. A third date meant you were serious.
Bit of a player, perhaps?
After that afternoon with Katie, he confided in his cousin: “Let’s just say there’ll be a third date.”
What I knew for sure when I heard that detail was that someday, somehow, in some story, I would have to use that line!
Years later, the two things I knew for sure came together, and I wrote what I knew, filling in the blanks with imagination, dicing it up with a little research to get the details right.
Imagination fuels the give and take of dialogue, gestures, the dance of body language: ‘She turned to the inside leaf of the dust-jacket; her hazel eyes darted across the lines. Simon slid three book lengths closer and pointed to the open page. “That looks interesting. What’s it called?”’
Imagination sorts through the fashion of the day: ‘There were morning girls, too anxious and eager to please, in their flapper dresses, all pearls and feathers, bare arms and knee caps… The shapeless lunch-hour girls disguised their curves in boyish clothing, with hairstyles to match and hats that hid their eyes…’ and settles on the heroine’s look: ‘Her flowing floral print dress fell to mid-calf, slender ankles tapered into low-heeled Mary Janes. Her fair hair caught the light, rippled finger-waves that skimmed her fine jaw’.
Imagination devises a pant leg caught in a bicycle chain, the clank of metal on a wooden sidewalk, and Simon’s reaction,“Bloody hell!”, to shape setting and character.
Imagination is a twist, a tango, a Texas two-step. Writer and reader, the partners. A cluster of clues fill the reader’s mind and soon the scene takes shape. When the young man in wide-cuffed trousers who dreams of owning a Ford Model-T suggests a date, “Why don’t I treat you to a soda?”, the reader supplies the malts, the floats, the egg salad sandwiches.
A Love of Reading is not memoir. Outside of their initial meeting and their life-long marriage, the heroine and hero, Lila and Simon, bear little resemblance to my grandparents.
The end result ‘reveals,’ in the words of author and reviewer Tanaz Bhathena, ‘nuances of a love that is all at once innocent, mysterious and timeless’.
I like to think my grandparents are proud.
~~~
A LOVE OF READING
Short Story Excerpt
Sherry Isaac
“Simon, it’s your turn. I can’t read anymore! My voice is getting hoarse.”
The spring sun was warm so they’d sought the shade of a large weeping willow. Simon lay in the cool grass, his legs crossed at the ankles, his hands behind his head. He’d been wrong, ole Roger Ackroyd held out for several chapters. Simon removed the long blade of grass from between his teeth. “But I love the sound of your voice, Lila. Even when you speak of poison and suicide, it’s like an angel sighing.”
Lila sat on Simon’s jacket so she wouldn’t stain her skirt. She tapped the toes of his boots with the book. “Oh, stop!”
Simon rose to his knees and tossed the book aside. “If you’re tired of reading, I know something else we could do.” He crawled toward her until his face was inches from hers.
She lowered her long lashes. “What would that be?” Her rosebud lips barely moved. Her breath was warm, sweet.
He leaned closer, his lips a mere breath away from hers. “This.”
Simon rode his bicycle to work the next day without incident. The journey seemed to last only seconds as he pedaled the last stretch down McPhillips Street. He entered the gate and saw Jacob leaning against the fence, waiting for him.
“Where’d you get to yesterday?”
Simon dismounted and parked his bike. “Nowhere.” He lowered the brim of his hat, chin tucked under to hide his broad grin as he walked toward the plant entrance.
Jacob was ahead of him, walking backwards so they could face each other. “You met her, didn’t you? You finally met her!”
Simon bit his lip to erase his grin before answering. He stroked his chin, eyes downcast, as if considering a complicated mathematical formula. Numbers and symbols danced in his head, the language that didn’t exclude him. The tactic worked. He could meet his cousin’s eyes with an aloof expression. “I might have.”
Jacob pulled off his cap, waved it in the air and let out a whoop. “I knew it! About time, too. What’s her name?”
The smile would not stay hidden. It spread across Simon’s face and made his cheeks cramp. “Lila.”
“Lila? Mm. Even I could fall for a dame with a name like that. What’s she like?”
Simon stopped and pressed his lips together. “You know I don’t kiss and tell.”
“She let you kiss her? In Woolworth’s? You’re smoother than Rudolph Valentino! So what now?” Jacob landed a playful jab on his cousin’s shoulder. “You gonna gently remove the hook and let her go?”
“Let’s just say there’ll be a third date.”
~~~

Winner of The Alice Munro Short Story Award, Sherry Isaac’s tales of life, love and forgiveness that transcend all things, including the grave, appear online and in print. Her first collection of shorts, Storyteller, debuts July 2011. For more information, or to order an autographed copy, click HERE.

Enter to WIN a copy of Sherry’s book or 1 of 5 custom bookmarks by posting a comment or ask a question!

**US/Canada only**

**MUST leave a contact email to WIN!!!**

>Author Sherry Isaac on Imagination + Excerpt + Giveaway

>My guest today, Sherry Isaac is an amazing writer and an even better friend. Her first collection of shorts, STORYTELLER, debuted last month, July 2011.

She will be giving away one copy of her book and 5 custom made bookmarks. Post a comment or ask a question to enter!

Welcome, Sherry!!

KNOWLEDGE PLANTS THE SEED. IMAGINATION MAKES IT BLOOM.
by Sherry Isaac
 


Write what you know.
That’s the advice we’re given when we start to write, but what does it mean? Does it mean that, because I don’t know a Phillips from a Robertson, a mallet from a hammer, a G-clamp from an A-frame, my hero can’t be a carpenter?
If it does, then it’s re-write time again.
True, author John Grisham (A Time To Kill, The Chamber) uses his knowledge and experience as a lawyer to write his legal thrillers. But did Anne Rice actually interview a vampire?
Or did she draw on her knowledge of New Orleans and the gothic impressions of the ornately decorated churches of her childhood, and fill in the rest with imagination?
Don’t know about you and Stephenie Meyer, but I’m going with the latter.
When looking for a starting point in a story, nuggets of truth are a great place to find inspiration. It is imagination that dictates where the story will go, and how it will end.
My maternal grandparents, Isaac and Katie, are gone, but a year or so before my grandfather, who went first, passed, I heard a story. A story of how they met.
Isaac and Katie both fled Russia in the days following the revolution. Isaac ended up in Winnipeg, Katie in Ste. Anne, a small farming community southeast of the city.
Isaac, educated and wealthy in his homeland, retired a machinist. I don’t know where he worked or what he did in the twenties, but suspect it was factory-oriented. As the story went, Isaac and his cousin knew where to go to meet girls.
And on what day.
Like many girls her age at the time, Katie worked as a domestic in the city, and Wednesday was the standard day off. Woolworth’s on Portage Avenue, in the heart of downtown Winnipeg, was the place to meet their girlfriends and ‘spend their earnings on ox-blood lipstick and the new flesh-colored stockings that were al the rage’.
There are a lot of blanks in the story. Who caught whose eye, who said what, and how a chance meeting turned into a life-long love is a mystery. In the end, a fact: In a city park, under the shade of a tree, my grandparents shared their first afternoon together.
A scandalous afternoon spent… Kissing!!!
Grandpa, you sly dog.
What I knew for sure when I started to write seriously was that someday I would write a piece honoring Isaac and Katie’s lifetime devotion.
Isaac had a steadfast rule: Never ask a girl out more than twice. A third date meant you were serious.
Bit of a player, perhaps?
After that afternoon with Katie, he confided in his cousin: “Let’s just say there’ll be a third date.”
What I knew for sure when I heard that detail was that someday, somehow, in some story, I would have to use that line!
Years later, the two things I knew for sure came together, and I wrote what I knew, filling in the blanks with imagination, dicing it up with a little research to get the details right.
Imagination fuels the give and take of dialogue, gestures, the dance of body language: ‘She turned to the inside leaf of the dust-jacket; her hazel eyes darted across the lines. Simon slid three book lengths closer and pointed to the open page. “That looks interesting. What’s it called?”’
Imagination sorts through the fashion of the day: ‘There were morning girls, too anxious and eager to please, in their flapper dresses, all pearls and feathers, bare arms and knee caps… The shapeless lunch-hour girls disguised their curves in boyish clothing, with hairstyles to match and hats that hid their eyes…’ and settles on the heroine’s look: ‘Her flowing floral print dress fell to mid-calf, slender ankles tapered into low-heeled Mary Janes. Her fair hair caught the light, rippled finger-waves that skimmed her fine jaw’.
Imagination devises a pant leg caught in a bicycle chain, the clank of metal on a wooden sidewalk, and Simon’s reaction,“Bloody hell!”, to shape setting and character.
Imagination is a twist, a tango, a Texas two-step. Writer and reader, the partners. A cluster of clues fill the reader’s mind and soon the scene takes shape. When the young man in wide-cuffed trousers who dreams of owning a Ford Model-T suggests a date, “Why don’t I treat you to a soda?”, the reader supplies the malts, the floats, the egg salad sandwiches.
A Love of Reading is not memoir. Outside of their initial meeting and their life-long marriage, the heroine and hero, Lila and Simon, bear little resemblance to my grandparents.
The end result ‘reveals,’ in the words of author and reviewer Tanaz Bhathena, ‘nuances of a love that is all at once innocent, mysterious and timeless’.
I like to think my grandparents are proud.
~~~
A LOVE OF READING
Short Story Excerpt
Sherry Isaac
“Simon, it’s your turn. I can’t read anymore! My voice is getting hoarse.”
The spring sun was warm so they’d sought the shade of a large weeping willow. Simon lay in the cool grass, his legs crossed at the ankles, his hands behind his head. He’d been wrong, ole Roger Ackroyd held out for several chapters. Simon removed the long blade of grass from between his teeth. “But I love the sound of your voice, Lila. Even when you speak of poison and suicide, it’s like an angel sighing.”
Lila sat on Simon’s jacket so she wouldn’t stain her skirt. She tapped the toes of his boots with the book. “Oh, stop!”
Simon rose to his knees and tossed the book aside. “If you’re tired of reading, I know something else we could do.” He crawled toward her until his face was inches from hers.
She lowered her long lashes. “What would that be?” Her rosebud lips barely moved. Her breath was warm, sweet.
He leaned closer, his lips a mere breath away from hers. “This.”
Simon rode his bicycle to work the next day without incident. The journey seemed to last only seconds as he pedaled the last stretch down McPhillips Street. He entered the gate and saw Jacob leaning against the fence, waiting for him.
“Where’d you get to yesterday?”
Simon dismounted and parked his bike. “Nowhere.” He lowered the brim of his hat, chin tucked under to hide his broad grin as he walked toward the plant entrance.
Jacob was ahead of him, walking backwards so they could face each other. “You met her, didn’t you? You finally met her!”
Simon bit his lip to erase his grin before answering. He stroked his chin, eyes downcast, as if considering a complicated mathematical formula. Numbers and symbols danced in his head, the language that didn’t exclude him. The tactic worked. He could meet his cousin’s eyes with an aloof expression. “I might have.”
Jacob pulled off his cap, waved it in the air and let out a whoop. “I knew it! About time, too. What’s her name?”
The smile would not stay hidden. It spread across Simon’s face and made his cheeks cramp. “Lila.”
“Lila? Mm. Even I could fall for a dame with a name like that. What’s she like?”
Simon stopped and pressed his lips together. “You know I don’t kiss and tell.”
“She let you kiss her? In Woolworth’s? You’re smoother than Rudolph Valentino! So what now?” Jacob landed a playful jab on his cousin’s shoulder. “You gonna gently remove the hook and let her go?”
“Let’s just say there’ll be a third date.”
~~~

Winner of The Alice Munro Short Story Award, Sherry Isaac’s tales of life, love and forgiveness that transcend all things, including the grave, appear online and in print. Her first collection of shorts, Storyteller, debuts July 2011. For more information, or to order an autographed copy, click HERE.

Enter to WIN a copy of Sherry’s book or 1 of 5 custom bookmarks by posting a comment or ask a question!

**US/Canada only**

**MUST leave a contact email to WIN!!!**