Questionable Topics

Victorian Mailbox from iStockOkay, I know what you’re thinking after reading my title today. Emilie’s going to address the touchy and therefore juicy subject of “things writers should never write about.” Well, actually I might, now that I’ve thought of it. Another day, though. Today I’m answering a few questions I pried out of my Facebook buddies.

The real truth is that there are a few weeks after a difficult book deadline when my creativity meter locks at zero.  That’s always a great time to let other people lead the way.  So here we go.

From Marsha:  “Okay…here’s a question.  Do you write little stories for your grand kids? That would be such a cool thing for them to treasure!”

From Emilie:  Thanks Marsha. Every night as I put my youngest son to bed I told him a new Cowboy Joe story.  I can’t remember now why a cowboy, but this became a tradition.  I can’t remember a single one, so clearly this time around for HIS son and for my granddaughters, I ought to, as you suggest, write these stories down.  However, my grandchildren’s homes are filled with books and toys and I wonder how my stories would compete?  On the other hand, the baby quilts I made them are still front and center, so maybe handmade and heartfelt are still the standard?  Has anybody out there done this?

From Janet: “Do you ever feel like the pressure of writing and deadlines is too much for you and you’d like to chuck it all? (Please say no.)”

From Emilie:  I do sometimes feel like I’m always writing.  The way to fix this would be to lengthen deadlines a bit.  Another possibility is what so many of my writing friends are doing, and that’s publishing my own novels online with my own deadlines.  For instance if I write more Aggie mysteries, I will publish them on my own so that nobody’s tapping a foot, arms folded, and waiting on the other end, except my readers.  The short answer is that I have no intention of chucking my writing, which I love. I might play with ways to make my deadlines friendlier.

From Joni:  “Writer’s block.  Do you get it, how often, and how long does it last?”

From Emilie:  I believe in writer’s block.  It’s not a lack of discipline, but a black hole that swallows every idea and inclination a writer has so that there’s nothing left to put on paper. I think sometimes it’s worse when a book’s made a stunning debut and the author knows that the next one must be just as good or better.  Panic is not a writer’s friend.  That said I don’t think I’ve ever really had writer’s block.  I have been exhausted, though, and unable to put sentences together.  That’s a different and much easier problem to fix.  Of the two, I’ll take that one.

From Toni:  Did you ever have a 9-5 career? If so, how do you make that work with writing? Seems to me my best ideas come when I can’t stop and write it down.

From Emilie:  I did have a 9-5 career–counselor and later parent/services coordinator for my county’s Head Start program.  When I began writing, though, my full time job was being a mom to four kids.  I had nap times and bed times and if I was lucky the occasional lull in the chaos to write down my ideas.  Toni, I would suggest getting a smart phone with Suri or her equivalent to send yourself memos whenever you have something you want to remember.  And schedule a few hours of uninterrupted time to write on weekends or evenings, time that’s all yours.  Best of luck!

From Marilyn:  I am amazed at how you develop your characters. Are they all totally imaginary or based in some part on folks you know?

And finally, from Emilie:  While I sometimes recognize a piece of someone I know in my characters, (a mannerism, a viewpoint, a speech pattern) I make a point of not using real people in my work.  Not only could I be sued (and writers have been) it would limit my own creativity enormously.  Then I would be a reporter not a novelist. 

Thanks to everyone who asked a question for this blog.  I owe you.


  1. Marsha on November 5, 2013 at 11:25 am

    I still think you should put those stories down for the grand kids…they wouldn’t have to be published but will be lifelong treasures from their grandma!
    I keep a journal for each of our foster grand kids. They live a long way from us but I put little things that happen in their lives; some photos and especially about the joy they have brought to my life.
    Our son and daughter in law skype us each Sunday night so we can interact with them…that sure helps. We’ve gone a long way from when even my grandparents came from Sweden, never again to see their parents. Remembering that helps
    me focus not so much on what I don’t have but more on what
    I do have!
    This was a great post…

  2. Dee Winter on November 5, 2013 at 11:37 am

    Oh, I love the idea of more Aggie! Keep that thought in mind please!

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