Author Interview: Dawn Colclasure

Today, I’m pleased to host Dawn Colclasure, author of 365 Tips For Writers, which I reviewed in my last post. I’ve been a fan of Dawn’s blog for a long time and am thrilled to have the opportunity to interview her.

Lillie: Welcome to A Writer’s Words, An Editor’s Eye, Dawn. It’s a pleasure to have you here. You’re quite an eclectic writer. Tell us some of the things you have written.

Dawn:  Thank you, Lillie. I am very happy to be here. Some of the things I have written include poetry collections; essays; articles for various Web sites, magazines, and newspapers; as well as nonfiction books, short stories, and a novel.

Lillie: Of the different kinds of writing you’ve done, do you have a favorite?

Dawn: I love writing fiction. It’s a great opportunity to experience a whole different world and explore many types of human experiences through a variety of characters.

Lillie: How did you get started in writing about writing?

Dawn: I started writing when I was very young, so as a teen, a lot of people started to come up to me and ask questions about writing. How to write this, how to get published, and various other ideas associated with being a writer. After a while, when I was in my twenties with many experiences as a writer under my belt, I just started to write about what those experiences taught me and put together a bunch of articles. Later, I decided to put everything down onto paper. I started writing out bits and pieces of advice on sticky notes. At first, I thought I had enough material to create a calendar with these pieces of advice, but after researching possible markets to submit that calendar idea to, I thought maybe that might not work out as well. I contacted Beth Ann Erickson of Filbert Publishing to see if she thought this was a viable idea, and she said she was starting up a publishing company to publish books for writers, and maybe my idea would fit with her line of books. Meanwhile, I just kept writing. Pretty soon, I realized I had enough to make that book materialize. And ever since, I have continued to write about writing.

Lillie: 365 Tips for Writers was originally published in print several years ago but came out as an e-book a few months ago. How did that come about? Have you seen that you are reaching a new audience with the e-book?

Dawn:  I do think I am reaching a new readership with the e-book version of the Tips book. I saw how sales were higher for the e-book than the print and found out that there are readers who prefer electronic books over the print counterparts. So I think it’s safe to say the e-book has caught the eye of readers who might have passed on the print one. As to why the electronic version came out so late, Filbert Publishing was still new when they published the Tips book, and they weren’t publishing electronic versions just yet. They started slowly, taking it with one book at a time. They eventually got around to making the electronic version of the Tips book.

Lillie: I’m one of those people who prefer e-books to print books, so I understand there is a different market. I was impressed that Peter Bowerman wrote the Foreword to the book. How did you manage that?

Dawn: I was a subscriber to Peter’s newsletter for some time before I started writing the Tips book. I’d read his book, The Well-Fed Writer, and I was very impressed with his success. This put together with what I got out of reading his newsletter made me think that, as someone who accomplished his writing goals and ended up making a handsome living as a writer, Peter was the best candidate for a book meant to help writers achieve their writing goals, as well. So I talked with Beth about the idea, and she also agreed Peter would be the right person to write the Foreword. I emailed Peter with the idea and, thankfully, he agreed to take that on.

Lillie: What is the best way for writers to use this book?

Dawn: The book is meant to be read as one tip a day, so that readers have a chance to ponder that tip, digest it, and, hopefully, be inspired in their writing from it. However, readers are just as welcome to read right through the book or take a random tip and see where it leads them.

Lillie: The common wisdom in public speaking is “you tell them what you’re going to tell them; you tell them; then you tell them what you’ve told them.” Did you have that in mind when you gave the same advice in different forms in different tips scattered through the book? Are the ones that you repeated in different words the ones you consider the most important?

Dawn:  Yes, that’s exactly correct. Also, the same kind of advice was reslanted so as to apply to the different types of writers the book was written for.

Lillie: Do you mind if we talk about a few specific tips? I don’t want to give away your content, but I think hearing the kind of advice they will find in the book may entice writers to want to read all the tips.

Dawn: I agree! Go ahead.

Lillie: Tip #54 and tip #177 caught my attention because at first glance they appear to contradict each other. In the first, you tell writers to include everything they have learned about the subject so your readers feel “they are ‘right there’ in the story.” In the second, you say to “leave room for your readers’ imagination.” Will you elaborate a little on what you mean by these?

Dawn: I’m glad you brought this up, because it’s a perfect example of how the tips are for different kinds of writers. In this case, we are talking about writers of articles and writers of fiction. In fiction, you do want to leave things to a reader’s imagination, such as how a character’s voice sounds or what color the tablecloth is at a Christmas dinner. Unless it’s very important that a reader knows a character has a squeaky voice because it plays a role in the story later or that the tablecloth is white because a character is practically blinded by that whiteness, then don’t bring it up. Let your readers have a chance to visualize things, too. With nonfiction, it is just as important to make sure you tell readers what they need to know. What someone is wearing, how they act while they talk, what a building looks like, the kind of flowers in a vase. These define the characteristics and personalities of the people involved in a nonfiction piece, and these are important ingredients readers will want to see.

Lillie: Now for a couple of my favorite tips: #69—save everything and #270—save your revisions! I learned the value of that with my first novel. I originally had a prologue describing the heroine’s stroke but later removed it. When a publisher accepted the manuscript, the editor asked me to add a prologue describing the stroke. She was greatly impressed when I sent it back the same day—all because I had saved the prologue from an earlier revision. Obviously that’s one good reason for saving everything, but you mention several others. Can you give us some other reasons for saving material that you don’t use?

Dawn: One reason why it’s a good idea to save everything is because stories have a way of creeping up on writers. Your muse takes bits and pieces of things your mind has recorded, that you have dreamed about, and that you have written about, and puts all of those elements into one story. Also, you might see something you wrote in a new light or feel differently about it. An essay I scrapped from an essay collection is material I’m using to turn into a short story. Ditto with another essay I have not found a home for as of yet.

Lillie: Scattered throughout the book, you give innovative suggestions for beating writer’s block. How did you come up with the idea to include those sections as well as the tips themselves?

Dawn: What’s funny is that I had the idea “beat the block” before I even knew what to do with it! I tried to figure out what that could be. The only “block” I was interested in “beating” was writer’s block. I thought it might be helpful to include writing prompts in the book and also that the prompts might help a writer struggling with writer’s block. I put those ideas together and that’s how I got the writing prompts. As to how I came up with the tips, I worked on the belief that ideas for things to write about are “everywhere.” I watched TV shows, looked out my window, paid attention to news and events. They inspired several of those writing prompts.

Lillie: Where can readers learn more about you and your books?

Dawn: Readers are welcome to visit my Web site at dmcwriter as well as MySpace. I am also on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I am in the process of getting an author site put together. I also blog and have a page I use for poetry and prose at deviantART.   

Lillie: You should be easy enough to find. Is there anything I’ve failed to ask that you would like to share with my readers?

Dawn:  My newest poetry collection, Love is Like a Rainbow: Poems of Love and Devotion, will be available in print very soon. I have another nonfiction book, Spook City, coming out in October. My next writing book, WIP It! How to Revise Your Writing Like a Pro, will be out in spring of 2011. And, finally, watch for the spin-off book of 365 Tips for Writers!

Lillie: Wow! You’re a busy lady. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing with us about your writing. Readers will probably have more questions for you. Will you check in during the day to respond to comments and answer questions?

Dawn: Of course, I will be happy to answer any and all questions from your readers. Thank you again for this wonderful opportunity to be a part of A Writer’s Words, An Editor’s Eye. It has been a wonderful experience, and I enjoyed answering your questions.

: Dawn Colclasure is the author of six books, among them BURNING THE MIDNIGHT OIL: How We Survive as Writing Parents and 365 TIPS FOR WRITERS: Inspiration, Writing Prompts and Beat The Block Tips to Turbo Charge Your Creativity. Her articles, essays, poems, book reviews, and short stories have been published in regional and national newspapers and magazines, as well as online. She lives and writes in Oregon with her husband and children. Her Web site is at

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