Folks, Linda has a very special place in my heart because she was the one who got me started writing fiction. Now I’ve had one book accepted for publication (will be out in early 2013) and am about to send out queries for the second. Linda, my hat’s off to you.
Oh, yes, and if you’re looking for an editor, a virtual assistant, or a teacher of writing, you can’t do better than Linda. She’s on my very short, short list.
Tell us something about yourself –
That’s a loaded question. Lol From a friends point of view, I am a happy person, love life, friendly, honest, a good friend and loving grandma (Nana). My husband and grandkids are my life. I love my church family and activities. I enjoy: oil painting, gardening, playing online games, board games, crafts, country driving, singing, playing the organ in church, working with children and life.
As far as the business side, I am honest, hardworking, determined, patient, friendly, will tell you the way I see it, line-by-line editor, assist writer’s and author’s to reach their goals, and a meticulous businesswoman.
You wear a number of hats as a writer. Which do you enjoy more, teaching, writing, or editing? Or something else?
I absolutely love the editing process. I enjoy the minds and thought process of writers. It’s amazing how we could give everyone the same topic, and the story would be different from each writer. I love the difference in our thinking. With editing, it’s a teaching process, as well. When I see something that doesn’t quite click, I give the author a few suggestions that might trigger another thought or scenario. I make sure their characters are fleshed out, dialog realistic, plot flows, content, etc. I haven’t written much since I’ve been doing the editing process, but I have been toying around with doing a book series. My writing and reading interests are the pioneer days. I’m sure my books would be in that era. If you read any of the authors below, you’d see what I mean.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Well, that’s a very good question. My favorite authors are Christian writers. I love the innocence of the characters, the pure love and well-written language. Instead of the profanity, which I abhor, I feel authors should write using the language that sets us apart from the norm. Too many writers use the cuss words to make a point. I feel we sometimes abuse the English language by writing that way. I don’t want to cringe when I read a love story. I do want to feel the romance and I do want my heart to flutter, but not to the extent of being dirty. I love the simplicity and honesty of using words and actions to describe the story. Here are some of my favorites:
Francine Rivers, Lori Wick, Gilbert Morris, Lynn Morris (his daughter), Lauraine Snelling, Tracie Peterson (Montana writer), Lynn Austin, June Masters Bacher, L.L. Chaikin, Kristen Heitzman, Beverly Lewis, Janette Oke, Judith Pella,
Who do you think has most influenced your voice as a writer?
I’ve never thought of that question before. I think we all are individuals and have our own unique style and voice. My influence stems from a teacher friend of mine. I didn’t think I even wanted to write until she read a few of her stories to me. After that, my mind wouldn’t stop creating. So, I would have to say that she brought out the creativeness for writing. I have written fiction and non-fiction as well as poetry. I never thought I could write a poem either. My grandfather wrote poetry. I never met him, but found an old journal with some of his writings. It’s a real treasure.
As a teacher of writing, what do you find you emphasize most?
Start your story with a strong hook. If you don’t pull the reader into the story from the first page, even the first few lines, you might lose them. I am a stickler for that. Also, show don’t tell. That is another part of writing that is important. Use your spellchecker. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve read with typos.
What kind of stories do you like to write?
I have a soft heart for any type of abuse: elderly, children, women and animals. Any story that moves me that I may see on the news, such as Female Circumcision on children, genocide, women having to wear burkas, abuse of Afghanistan women, children of Africa, starvation and lots more. If I can help anyone through my writing, I would write continuously. I love to get inside a person’s mind and show what they must be feeling. I want to identify with them as a writer, probing like an invisible watcher. Do you ever wish you could be invisible and see a story unveil before you? That’s the kind of writing I like to do. Everyone can do that if they let themselves go. Be your character.
With so much on your plate, how do you organize and prioritize your time?
I would say that is the toughest thing I have on my plate. I usually try and read my email, but that’s becoming harder and more time consuming. I get my editing projects started or done. I also am a Virtual Assistant for authors. I like to divide my time doing both projects. Since I spend around ten hours per month for each author I assist, that gives me some time to do my editing. When I don’t have any editing jobs, I concentrate on doing networking, marketing, getting authors interviews from radio and blogs, write press releases, and anything else that will promote the author. I do a lot of blogging on my blog and ping a lot.
I also like to unwind by playing online games. That’s one of the things I do after hours. Actually, I don’t have any set hours. Depending on what I have to do, my hours may be long or short.
Do you have a writing/editing/teaching routine?
In a word: No. Whatever I have that’s to do, and whether it’s a rush job or not, that’s my priority.
Any favorite bit of writing advice? Any least favorite?
I have read so many well-meaning writers and authors give their advice. And they are all correct. I would have to say the best for me is to just write. Everyone has a story. That is, everyone in the whole world. Sometimes I may have a title that will pop into my head. I write it down. I may hear some dialog in a restaurant that will fascinate me, I write it down. Look around you; there are stories in every person. Whether you want to write fiction or non-fiction, talk to people. Interview them. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and contact someone to chat with. Start with a family member. Your own parents have a story. A close friend. A neighbor. What can they do to you? Really? We have to get over getting upset about someone telling you, NO. If you let it stop you from continuing, then you aren’t meant to write. Get over it! Don’t let anyone take away your power. Most people like to talk about themselves. If you want to write fiction, there is a plethora of topics to write about. Close your eyes and get a dictionary and point to a word. Write about that in a story. Put village, town, city, planet or whatever, behind the word and you have a title and, most likely, a plot. It will bring all sorts of situations to your mind. I have done this a few times in my writing forums. It is a lot of fun.
The least favorite tip I’ve read is to write about what you know. Are you kidding me? You have a World Library at your fingertips. Turn on your computer and start searching now. Don’t waste another day writing about just what you know. Write about what you don’t know. You can learn by researching. You don’t have to go anywhere as long as you’re plugged into the world. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t write. You may need to take a course or two, but don’t let it stop you. Reach out to someone that is positive and supportive. Join a writer’s group. I just happen to have a private writing forum that I’ve had going since 2001. I would have to say that everyone that joins (free), becomes a published author. I am not bragging, just stating the facts.
You and Denise Cassino started Long Story Short, an ezine for writers, as well as, Long Story Short School of Writing that offer writing courses and a Writers’ Lodge. Can you tell us about that?
Denise and I met online in a writing class. We became fast friends and decided we wanted to stay connected through out writing. We had some similar backgrounds. That’s when I suggested we start a writing forum where we could continue to write and support each other and other writers. That was started in 2001, and is still going strong. From there, we met *Sue Scott* (Passed away March 2009), a funny and creative writer. Her stories were witty and fun to read. In 2003, collectively, got together and decided to form a writing ezine for struggling writers, like us. That link is: http://www.alongstoryshort.net We wanted to reach out and help those that were earnestly trying to get published, but were having a hard time. We would coach them and help fine-tune their stories to ready them for publication. We never knew that venue would take us on this wonderful trip. We have been voted Writer’s Digest Best 101 Websites for six years running. We have great writers submitting to us monthly. It used to take us a couple of days or weeks to accept/reject a story. Now it’s taking us 3-4 months. That’s saying something. Not only do we accept flash fiction, but we also have non-fiction, About Writing Articles and poetry. It’s a great place to visit and spend time with us. There is: Story of the Month (the winner receives $25.00 at the end of the year if voted Story of the Year), Poem of the Month, Poetry Corner, book launches, book reviews, blog and lots of other goodies. Denise Cassino does book launches. Check out her site for more information. If you want your book to reach number one on Amazon.com in one day, then you need to contact her at http://www.wizardlywebdesigns.com/
We love each of our writers and have made some life-long friends in the process. Though we don’t offer money for the submissions, we do offer our guidance and fine critique when we see a story and/or writer that are promising. Together, we have helped hundreds of writers get the recognition they deserve and have gone on to write books and make money.
In 2005, we decided to offer writing courses for a price that most could afford, and have instructors that would truly help with, most of the time, one-on-one instructions. You can check that out here: http://www.lsswritingschool.com There is a plethora of subjects to choose from.
I started writing fiction when I joined your writing forums. Can you tell us a bit about your forums, and how readers can join?
You know, first hand, how the forums helped you and others succeed in your writing goals. I have four fiction forums, two poetry and two novel forums. The novel forums are on vacation at the moment. In other words, unless I have more willing to post, they will remain closed.
I give four topics each month to write a fiction story. You have deadlines to write a first draft, rewrite and a final. Everyone is also given four topics for poetry. I require everyone to try a poem on the required months to post a poem. That happens about once every quarter. You don’t have to post a poem on the other months, but it’s always good to keep trying. You never know unless you try. (cliché, oh well.) You don’t even have to choose one of my topics for those months, but on the required month, you have to choose one of the topics and write and post a poem.
You also give feedback to each forum members as well as receive them. That’s where you get the best information about your story. What did you like? Disliked? Where can they improve? What was confusing? How about the characters? Were they fleshed out? Was the dialog natural? Did they stay in the correct point of view? And lots more. I insist you always leave the writer on a positive note. I won’t tolerate being mean and nasty to someone. There will be a warning and then they will have to leave. That’s why these forums have been so popular since 2001. It’s like a close family network. They are also private.
The forums build confidence. That’s a big factor that has made them so popular. Having your peers help you to succeed and support you, helps in your effort to reach your writing and publishing goals.
If anyone is interested in joining, they can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org Make sure you put “Writing Forums” in the subject line. They need to tell me a bit about themselves and their writing and goals.
Denise came up with the idea of the Writer’s Lodge. It’s simply a home for writers. Denise does all the work, changes, and listings of each website. For only, $29.95 a year, you can have your own writer website. By the way, that’s a must for any writer. You need to have a website. You can have your story links, chat room, picture, important links and information, whatever you want. Denise keeps it up for you. How can you pass that up? It’s a place where writers can communicate with one another. Long Story Short gets thousands of hits every month. This is a good place to get recognized for your work. You can find out more on the home page of Long Story Short ezine. It’s under the Long Story Short name.
You are now offering editing services. Can you tell us something about the services you offer, and where readers can find you on the web?
Thank you for asking, Margaret. Since I’ve been in the business world for over forty years, and have done extensive business writing, proofreading reading and writing of contracts, reports, etc., I decided to help writers and authors. Since 2009, I have been editing short stories for writers and editing book(s). I am reasonable and honest. I guess you can tell your readers that if they ask. You know me to be that way. I could not do business with anyone that was dishonest or untrustworthy. That’s why Denise and I get along so well. Anyway, I have been fairly busy doing editing since that time. I am a line-by-line editor. I can’t edit any other way. I look for a strong opening hook, natural dialog, dialog tags, point of view changes, character build up, beginning, middle and ending, good resolution, story flow, typos, grammar, punctuation, and whether the story grabs the reader or not. I suggest where I feel there needs to be changes. I make suggestions or improvement. One of the most important aspects of my editing is whether the writer shows the story instead of telling. I want to feel the emotions and actions of the character. I want to see the characters in love. I want to hold my breath during a moment of tension. I want each chapter to leave me hanging until the next. Show me, don’t tell me. A lot of authors have this problem. If you can get lost in a good story, then you’ve succeeded in the process of storytelling. You have to be the director in your writing. The actors have to show you the story through their actions and some dialog. How would you like it if they just sat and talked about what happened? I think you get the picture. Showing is one of the most important elements of writing, in my opinion.
Along with editing, I am a Virtual Assistant for authors. This is what I do for them: I do all their social networking, marketing, press releases, blogging, pinging, build up of twitter followers, get interviews on radio and blogs, book reviews, etc. My motto is: Your Goals Are My Goals. If you want to succeed, then hire me to help you. I will do my best to get your name and book out there. I can’t promise sales, but I can promise that I will do my honest best to support you and let the world know that you and your book(s), exist. Don’t give up, and I won’t give up on you either.
My website is: www.lindabarnett-johnson.com
Any advice for aspiring writers?
Yes. Realize your dreams. Don’t let anyone stand in your way. Get an editor to read your work and help you. Join a writing forum and have your peers help you. Build up your confidence and tell yourself every day, “I AM A WRITER. I DO HAVE A STORY. I CAN WRITE ABOUT ANYTHING I PUT MY MIND TO.” Don’t let anyone, and I mean anyone: spouse, mom, dad, grandparents, kids, friends, and neighbors, STOP YOU! Don’t give up. Write and write until you can’t stop. The words will flow and you’ll feel that gratification that writers feel when they’ve poured out their souls, or blood, onto paper. When you get your story done and edited, submit it. Don’t let it sit around for months or years. You’ll never know how good you are until you do. Will you get rejected? Most likely. But, are you going to let it stop you? No. You might have to do more rewriting. Don’t be afraid to take out a sentence or a whole paragraph. Maybe you thought it was great, but in reality, it wasn’t necessary to the story. That’s where an editor can help you. Even the best writers in the industry have been rejected a time or two. What they did was overcome, and kept submitting. They eventually got accepted and some became famous authors.
Any last words?
Yes, I do have encouraging words for your readers. There is a rainbow at the end, a silver lining, a pot-of-gold, and an acceptance with your story and name in print. If you give up, you have no one to blame, but yourself. Now that I’ve used every cliché known to man, hopefully you all understand. You can do it, yes you can. (Post this on your computer, mirror and in your car).
One more thing about writing, keep a notebook with you at all times. It may be just a purse size that can go anywhere with you. If you see someone’s mannerisms, write it down. If you hear some dialog that’s interesting, write it down. Write down settings, names, topics or titles that may come to you as you drive, jot down peoples dress and features. What did they look like? What were they wearing? Where did they work? What secrets do they hold? Your imagination can run wild, like mine right now.
Thank you Margaret, for giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts and writing information with your readers. It’s my hope they will continue to write and get their unique voice out there. Remember, we all have a story. Who knows it better than you? Something to think about.
* You can read more about Sue Scott at this link: http://www.alongstoryshort.net/atributetosuescott.html