At a meeting of the Inland Empire Writers’ Club, I met Libby Grandy. I was doing a talk about using social media to build your author platform, and Libby had a keen interest. Turns out, she was published and actively marketing her work, and wanted to learn more. She defied the ageist stereotypes that say otherwise. She inspired me, so I asked if she’d like to talk with us here at AST. Here are my questions in bold, and her responses. Enjoy.
Is writing something you wanted to do all your life, but couldn’t due to work pressures? And if so, how did you keep the dream alive during your career years?
During my career years, I wrote whenever I could, most often late at night or on weekends…In all honesty, however, it was never a dream of mine to publish my work. I believe many writers write a long time before thinking about publishing their work. At least that was true for me…I took a writing class at Mt. SAC in my late forties. When the teacher gave me an A+ for a short story, I was stunned. The first novel I attempted to write was actually based on the character in that short story, Lydia. It became the second book years later in the Haverford Trilogy. I didn’t even think about publishing until I retired. Writing was simply something I enjoyed doing.
What is your writing routine? What does your typical day look like?
I write on my laptop, propped up on my bed, in our bedroom. I can envision myself at ninety in the same spot as long as my fingers still work. (My husband suggested that it might be good if my brain was also working.)
If I’m writing a novel, I try to write a few hours each morning. I read the last few pages of a chapter written the day before and then begin the new chapter. In the afternoon I read and edit what I’ve written—if I have time. When I’m not working on a novel, I write whenever I feel like it. One thing I do that may be different from some other writers is write a scene when it comes to my mind, such as dialogue between my characters. Later I insert it at the appropriate place. (LMS: what a great tip.)
What is your greatest challenge vis-à-vis the writing life, and what gives you the greatest satisfaction? Is there a particular high point you’d like to tell us about?
One day I received a call from a lady that the magazine she worked for, Mature Living, wanted to publish my article entitled, “Who is that Old Woman in the Mirror.” We had a wonderful conversation about my article. She said they sat around a table listening to someone read it and nodding their heads in agreement as I talked about the process of aging. The ensuing published article was beautifully formatted and even had the title on their cover page. Of course, seeing my books in print for the first time was special and wonderful (and) gave me the encouragement I needed to see myself as a “writer.” Before I just thought of myself as someone who loved to write. (The article is on my website.)
I suppose my challenge, like most writers, is marketing. Writing is fun. Marketing . . . not so much.
Now that you’ve written four books in four years what is your secret to productivity?
That is something I would like to clear up. I didn’t write a novel a year and then publish it. I edited novels I had already written. I did some major rewrites and added many scenes but didn’t create from scratch. For example, I chose to publish my mystery, Desert Soliloquy, first. I had written it and had it critiqued, but it wasn’t the first novel I wrote.
Right now, I’m working on another novel. It probably won’t be published for a year or two. I’m taking a chapter a week to my critique group (then will) probably query agents and that will take months. If I get one, it will be months more. If he or she is unsuccessful, I’ll self-publish. My suggestion to new writers is: take the time needed to produce a quality product. Don’t rush or write something you feel is commercial and will make you a best-selling writer. Write from the heart. The rest will evolve, as it did for me.
How do you reinforce the craft? Do you take classes, watch YouTube videos, attend writing conferences, subscribe to Writer’s Digest, ???
I consider my critique group and writing friends who read the final drafts of my novels as the best arena for honing my writing skills. We have excellent writers in our group who catch every nuance of a writing scene and make good suggestions. Most of the other avenues, such as conferences, have to do with the marketing process. I continue to educate myself about marketing as it is an ever-changing arena.
What would you say to aspiring writers who want to write but can’t due to current obligations (usually child rearing and/or demanding careers)?
Just write when you can, a few minutes here, a few minutes there. Or write in your journal and lament the fact that you don’t have time to write. It’s cathartic and you suddenly realize that you’ve just written for thirty minutes and could have used those minutes to work on your novel. It’s surprising how much you can accomplish when you write for short periods of time. I would often write a few paragraphs during my lunch time at work.
Who is your typical reader? (or who do you think most appreciates your writing?)
I basically write women’s fiction. Not romance but stories that focus on relationships and how the characters evolve through their experiences. My mystery, Desert Soliloquy, is more mainstream but the protagonist is a woman…I have a fan who lives in India that I met when he visited his son in California. He found my book in a local library, loved it and had his son contact me. We met for lunch, and he told me that after reading my novel, he understood better how women think. We keep in touch by email. He is also a writer, but his books in India are written in Hindi. He hopes to translate one into English and send it to me. I also have male readers who like ghost stories like Promises to Keep.
Do you use social media to build your platform? If so, which network(s) do you enjoy using the most?
I use Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, my website and my blogs. Whenever I post, there is always a link to Amazon and my books. I enjoy Facebook the most. Writers should remember that everything they post online will show up on Google. If you type the words Libby Grandy in Google, you will find most of my writing, interviews, etc. Social media is a vast arena for writers. That is why writers should brand their name, not their books. Who is the world is going to remember the title, Desert Soliloquy (or be able to spell Soliloquy)? But they just might remember the two words—Libby Grandy.
Libby’s last words on the topic:
I sincerely believe we writers are blessed. We are able to get our thoughts, factual or imaginary, down on paper for others to read. Readers may be inspired or comforted or just entertained. What could be more satisfying? Having said that, I also believe that a writer does not have to be published to experience deep satisfaction.
That comes from simply writing.
Libby and her husband, Fred live in Claremont, California. They have two daughters, three granddaughters, and five great-grandchildren. She retired from the Dean of Students Office at Claremont McKenna College. Before CMC, Libby was employed at General Dynamics in Pomona, California, acting as a liaison with state colleges and universities. She also worked several years as a consultant, conducting workshops on Behavior Modification and Stress Management.
Libby facilitates a weekly critique group and belongs to the Inland Empire Branch of the California Writers Club. Her novels are available on Amazon: The Haverford Trilogy (Promises to Keep, Lydia and True Abundance), as well as a mystery set in the high desert (Desert Soliloquy). Libby is presently working on her new novel, The End is the Beginning. The link to her website and blog is www.libbygrandy.com, and her twitter handle is @LibbyGrandy.
Lynne here: When I was a younger person, I despaired of ever following my writing dream, but I was still drawn to writing. So I took Saturday and night classes, subscribed to Writer’s Digest magazine, and wrote a hundred first chapters of never-to-be-published novels. When I could finally chase my passion in earnest, I had ideas and skills that would not have happened otherwise. Libby did the same. So for everyone, there is a message in this post: don’t give up. Keep at it. Life is about more than duty, work, obligation, and necessity. Save a little part of your heart for dreaming.
Did this post resonate for you? Do you have your own story about never giving up?