Monday, November 7, 2011

On Writing Author Interview: Pat Valdata

To avoid pre-conceived notions which can sometimes be connected with certain genres, the number of books published and/or an author's appearance, none of that information will be revealed until the bottom of the interview. So pour a cup of coffee, have a seat, and check out this interview - see how much, or how little, you have in common with this published author. 

What is your favorite part of being a writer?   Mostly, I love working with words. 

What is your least favorite part?   There’s not much to dislike! The whole process is fun—from getting an idea through drafting and revising and then finally the satisfaction of arriving at “the end.” Trying to get someone to like what I wrote is nowhere near as much fun, but then, that’s publishing, not writing.

Name one obstacle you’ve had to overcome.   Time is the main problem. I am not a person with limitless energy, so day jobs can make it hard to get writing done, especially a day job that involves sitting in front of a computer and writing things for other people. After a day of that, the last thing I want to do is spend more time in front of a computer screen. And I am not a morning person, so getting up an hour early to work on my own stuff just isn’t going to happen. Thank goodness for writer’s residencies! I can get more done in two weeks at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts than I can in six months at home.

Is there a specific part of your writing you’re working on to improve?  All of it, all the time.

What part of your writing makes you particularly proud?   When someone comes up to me at a book fair and tells me how much they loved my book. Or when I get a fan letter—which is rare, but really gratifying. 

What does your favorite main character have in common with you?   I don’t have favorites. I love them all.

Do you do a lot of research for your projects or do you only write about what you already know?   Goodness, writing about what you already know sounds so boring, doesn’t it? One of my favorite writing teachers, Peter Murphy, says that we have to surprise ourselves if we want our readers to be surprised, too. I think that’s great advice. And because I thoroughly enjoy doing research, I am always happy to be in the middle of a project that requires it. I especially love researching realistic details.

How do you use the internet for your writing?   The most influential thing was joining a listerv of creative writers and writing teachers in 1995. I am still on that list and I really value the friendships and professional relationships that I have made as a result. I belong to another listserv for women poets, which has also been a valuable resource. I have had publications as a direct result of the networking on both lists.  I also use Facebook and Twitter to keep in touch with other writers and to let people know about upcoming events and publications. 

If you’ve won any awards for your writing, what impact do you think that has had?    It certainly makes me feel like a “real” writer, but aside from the personal gratification, there’s little tangible benefit, at least, not for someone at my level. Maybe I’d feel differently if I’d won a MacArthur grant or Pulitzer prize! 

What one marketing tool have you had good success with?   The old-fashioned kind: word of mouth and personal networking. All of my publications have resulted from those two things. I also sell books at book fairs and festivals. I can buy book s from my publishers at a discount, so selling directly is how I make the most money per individual copy. And it is a lot of fun.

What good writing habits have you developed that you think would be helpful to someone starting out?   I am probably the worst person when it comes to good writing habits. I am easily distracted when I am at home. There’s always something that needs doing—getting work done for a client and grading papers are things I get paid to do, so of course that work gets priority. By the time I am done with paid work, it is just too easy to procrastinate by refilling the bird feeder or doing a load of wash. If I didn’t belong to a group that meets twice a month, I probably wouldn’t get anything written. 

Do you have any bad writing habits that you’d advise writers to avoid?  Procrastinating is the main thing I do much too well. I also suggest NOT looking at email or Facebook when your main task should be to sit down and write. The Internet is a huge distraction. I am really good at avoiding it when I’m at a residency, but I am really bad about it at home. 

Do you have any strange writing habits?  I generally compose using the computer, so I don’t have a lucky pen or use a particular kind of writing paper. I don’t play music. I don’t have any real rituals, although in my office I have objects that I hope will put me in a writing mood—a turtle figurine that my husband gave me, some pretty beach rocks and shells, writing books, things like that. Sometimes, though, I need to get out of the office, and so I’ll drive to a local park and watch birds for a little while to get back into a creative mood.

When you’re not writing, do you read, and if so, what?  I love to read and always have several books going at once. I love mysteries and admire writers who can write them. I’m also a geek so I reread The Lord of the Rings every few years. I’m a birder so I have a lot of bird books, too. I just got Jerry Ligouri’s Hawks at a Distance because I volunteer at the Turkey Point Hawk Watch every year. 

What are you trying to accomplish with/through your writing?   To write the best that I can. If someone reads one of my books and enjoys it, that makes me incredibly happy.

What words of wisdom do you have for young writers?  Just do it no matter how many people tell you that you are uncool. 

What advice do you have for someone looking to get published?   This is the best of times and the worst of times (sorry, Dickens). It’s the best for anyone who wants to self-publish an e-book or a print book because there are so many options out there. It’s the worst of times for anyone who wants to publish through the traditional route. The few publishing houses that are left are run by bean counters, not editors, and they are so driven by the bottom line that it’s really hard for any writer who doesn’t write a potential blockbuster (99.99% of us) to even get read.

Any thoughts on what this author writes? How many books published? Here's a little more information about the author...

How many published books are to your credit?   4

Do you have an agent?   Not at present. If an agent reads this and wants to get in touch, that would be great.

Are you self-published?  No 

How many different companies have you published with?  Three 

How long have you been writing?   Ever since I learned to read, but writing seriously for about 20 years.

Do you write full-time? If not, what is your other job? And how do you balance work/writing?   I wish! I am a business writing consultant and I also teach part-time, and mostly online, for UMUC. How do I balance work/writing? Not well at all.

So, any thoughts? Here's the full scoop:

Pat Valdata, a native of New Jersey, lives in Elkton, Maryland. She received an MFA in fiction writing from Goddard College. She has written two novels, Crosswind (Wind Canyon Books, 1998) and The Other Sister (Plain View Press, 2008), which won a gold medal from the Árpád Academy in 2009. Her newest book, a full-length poetry book titled Inherent Vice (Pecan Grove Press), was published in March 2011. Her earlier chapbook, Looking for Bivalve (2002), was a finalist in that publisher’s chapbook competition. Pat is an adjunct associate professor at the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) and president of Cloudstreet Communications. 

Pat's titles are available for purchase at

What are you working on now?  I am working on a new novel and a new book of poetry.

Anything else about being a writer that you’d like to share? I have always loved Hemingway’s comment about why he rewrote the last page of Farewell to Arms 39 times. His writing problem? “Getting the words right.”

For more information on Pat Valdata, novelist and poet, please visit

Is there anything else you'd like to know about this author, or any questions you'd like added to future interviews? Let us know...drop us a comment below.


  1. First, as a Tolkien fan, I must admit my heart skipped a beat at the mention of re-reading "Lord of the Rings." :-) Second, Pat's words of wisdom: "Just do it no matter how many people tell you that you are uncool" are a much appreciated reminder for me (and I'll bet others) to just write and ignore the nay-sayers. Thanks, Pat, for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Writing is uncool? (I never got that memo!) Thanks, Pat. It's also nice to know I'm not the only one easily distracted by the 'net.