Monday, October 17, 2011

On Writing Author Interview: Author Vonnie Winslow Crist

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? The writing is my favorite thing about being a writer! I also enjoy research. While doing research, I sometimes stumble upon the most amazing fact or bit of history or archaic word that turns out to be the beginning place for another piece of writing. Plus, I'm getting better & better at trivia games that involve obscure information.

What is your least favorite part? Submitting work to publishers. I think it's actually the time spent away from the creative process I dislike, though I must say the possibility of rejection looms like a thunderstorm on the horizon. And in a strange way, I think I'm a little afraid of success! Being very successful would probably take time away from the actual writing, too.

Name one obstacle you’ve had to overcome. Hmm. I'm not sure I'd call them obstacles, but having 3 children and being a very involved mom took lots of my time. Now that the kids are grown, I thought I'd have more time for my writing, but I still devote a lot of time to my elderly mom, grandkids, kids, and husband. Family is my foundation – and also my biggest distraction.

Is there a specific part of your writing you’re working on to improve? I continue to work on character development and plotting. Nowadays, I cringe when I read something I wrote years ago. The good news is that I've matured as a writer enough to easily pick out the weaknesses in my earlier published work. The bad news is that work is out there for others to read. Eek!

What part of your writing makes you particularly proud? I think I'm proudest when a reader tells me that a piece of my writing had special meaning to them or that they really enjoyed it. I believe writing is communication, therefore it takes at least 2 people. I send out the message – and when someone reads it, then the message is received. Hooray when the communication works!

What does your favorite main character have in common with you? No fair. This is like picking your favorite child – it's impossible to do. But if I had to choose, most of my favorite characters care about others and are curious, honest, and willing to suspend their disbelief every now and again. That pretty much describes me.

Do you do a lot of research for your projects or do you only write about what you already know? I do lots of research AND write about things I know something about. Even if I know a good deal about a subject (art as an example), I will do additional research so I make sure to get the facts straight (or know where to change things). I also love to do research on some scrap of quirky information I come across. Sometimes I think the joy of discovering a fascinating legend or folk practice can translate into an interesting story where your protagonist also discovers that information.

How do you use the internet for your writing? First let me say, my publishers think I should use the internet more! But I do have a website, blog, personal & author Facebook page, and (sigh) a little-used twitter account. I'm trying to use the internet to connect more with my readers. I also belong to several online groups which not only offer writing-specific opportunities, but also support and discussions about writing and/or illustration.

If you’ve won any awards for your writing, what impact do you think that has had? Early on, I entered a few contests and was rather successful with individual pieces. I think those awards encouraged me to continue writing. A Special Merit Award resulted in a book. A few years ago, I won an Individual Artist Award in Writing from the Maryland State Arts Council. The monetary part of that award was helpful in paying for some writing seminars, and the award itself opened the door for the publication of another book.

What one marketing tool have you had good success with? The marketing tool I've had good success with is follow-up contacts with readers, reviewers, and bloggers. If someone is interested in you as a writer or your work. Pay attention & follow up!

What good writing habits have you developed that you think would be helpful to someone starting out? I'd tell a beginning writer to try to write something every day. I don't care if it's revising work, notes for research, journaling, or actually working on a creative piece of writing. Try to write every day.

Do you have any bad writing habits that you’d advise writers to avoid? She sighs loudly, then responds: don't procrastinate. Tasks do NOT become easier because you waited till later.
Do you have any strange writing habits? I carry a little notepad and jot down ideas, names, snippets of conversation, places, anything that strikes my fancy -- no matter where I am. People who don't know me must wonder what in the world I'm writing at a restaurant or in the mall or in church or outside a funeral parlor or...

When you’re not writing, do you read, and if so, what? I love to read. My interests vary – but currently I've been on a Young Adult reading jag: “The Hunger Games,” “Girl on Fire,” “Mocking Jay,” “Impossible,” “Graceling,” etc. And, as always, I have a special spot in my heart for folklore, legends, myths, fairy tales, and Tolkien.

What are you trying to accomplish with/through your writing? The first and most important thing I'm trying to accomplish through my writing is to communicate with others through story. I strive to examine our complicated world and relationships, and to reach out to others through words. I also try to celebrate the mystical and magical in the world around us.

What words of wisdom do you have for young writers? Write because you love to write. Read because it helps you understand what has been written before and what's being written today. Reading also allows you to see with your own eyes both great and not-so-great writing. Try to jot down what makes a story wonderful and what makes you stop reading a book. You can learn a lot from others' mistakes. Practice your craft. Practice really does help you improve whether you're writing a novel or shooting a basketball or baking a cake from scratch.

What advice do you have for someone looking to get published? Read what a publisher has published before. In the case of magazines, you can really tell an editor's tastes by what they've selected to include in previous issues of their publication. Use market sites to help you find places looking for work, then follow their guidelines precisely. Two of my favorites: and Be persistent. You should always have multiple pieces “out” looking for a publishing home while you're hard at work on the next story, book, article, poem, etc. Keep writing. Keep submitting. And don't become discouraged.

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 print & 3 ebooks.

Do you have an agent?  No. But I did have an agent briefly – her agency folded, and I (she dabs her eyes with a tissue) became agentless again.

Are you self-published?  No.

How many different companies have you published with?  4

How long have you been writing? Like most of your readers, I've been writing since kindergarten! But I think I really felt a need to pursue creative writing in early 1979. I sent a few poems to a couple of local publications and got published. Looking back on those pieces, I shake my head. They're not very good – but they were my best work at that time in my writing life.

Do you write full-time? If not, what is your other job? And how do you balance work/writing? I'm a “Jill-of-many-trades.” Besides freelance writing & illustrating & storytelling -- I'm a columnist for “Harford's Heart Magazine,” illustrator for “The Vegetarian Journal,” contributor to “Faerie Magazine,” and editor of “The Gunpowder Review.” I occasionally teach creative writing at a local college. I'm also a wife, mom, granny, daughter, etc. I try to balance the time spent every day between work and home life. But honestly, I think because of deadlines and short-time opportunities, I balance the time spent per WEEK better. Some days are devoted to writing & illustrating and others almost totally to family.

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

Born in the Year of the Dragon, Vonnie Winslow Crist earned a BS in Art & Education and an MS in Professional Writing from Towson University. Published in over 100 magazines, she enjoys reading, writing, and illustrating folklore, myths, legends, and fairy tales. And myths and legends plan an important role in her new short story collection, The Greener Forest -- where all is not what it seems at first glance, and anything is possible when Faerie collides with our everyday world.

A firm believer that the world around us is filled with miracles and magic, Vonnie still sees angels in the trees, trolls under bridges, pillywiggins in her garden, and goblins of all sorts in the shadows. She lives at Wood's Edge with her husband and their dog, feeds wild birds, adores toads, and regularly has mushroom fairy rings sprout up beneath the trees in her yard.

Vonnie's titles include:  “The Greener Forest” - speculative short story collection; “Bells” - eShort ghost story; “Assassins” - eShort science fiction; “Sideshow by the Sea” - eShort dark fantasy; “River of Stars” - poetry with a mythic tone; “Essential Fables” - poetry with a mythic tone;  “Leprechaun Cake & Other Tales” - children's book;  as well as a contributor to lots of anthos including: “Dragons' Lure,” “Dia de los Muertos – A Day of the Dead Anthology,” “In the Garden of the Crow,” “While the Morning Stars Sing,” “Life in Me like Grass on Fire,” etc.

These books may be purchased at and at

What are you working on now?  I'm currently at work on several short stories & articles for various magazines or anthologies and on another collection of speculative short fiction. I'm also working on a speculative novel and compiling a collection of letters from a great uncle from World War II. The WW II book is a departure from my usual books, but it's a fascinating project. My uncle was wounded several times, and eventually killed, but he wrote his sister wonderful letters almost everyday for 3 years while in N. Africa and then, in Italy. And I'm still trying to locate another agent for my YA novel. Plus, there is this children's book idea...

Anything else about being a writer that you’d like to share?   For me, the creative process is like oxygen – I need it to survive. I think if writing is something you love, you should write for your own pleasure. Then, determine your audience: Is the writing just for you? Then, print out & bind a copy of your work for you. For your family & friends? Think about self-publishing a print-on-demand or eBook. Or for a larger readership? Begin to build an audience by publishing in magazines & anthologies while you look for a publisher for a book of your work. If and how you choose to publish will be determined by your answer to the audience question.

To learn more about Author-Illustrator Vonnie Winslow Crist, check out her website: or blog:  or facebook author page: or twitter: @VonnieWCrist.

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. Just a quick line before I jump into my own daily writing -- Vonnie, you've inspired me for the day! Write every day, read every day, see the inspiration all around, keep improving and keep submitting. Sums it up well, doesn't it? Thanks, KS and Vonnie!

  2. You're welcome, Alexandria. I'm glad I could inspire a fellow writer. Good luck with your writing projects.

  3. Thanks, KS and Vonnie, for a great interview. It is always fun to hear how other writers view themselves and their careers. I like the theme that ran subtly through this interview...keep writing and get better and better with time!

  4. You're welcome. I honestly do believe if a writer works at her craft, she'll improve. Plus, I think she'll understand the markets better, and be more able to locate appropriate editors/publishers.