Thursday, November 17, 2011

Interview with UK Writer/Editor Mary Cook

Mary Cook is a UK-based writer and editor whose articles, short stories and poems have appeared in numerous publications, both in print and online. Her main writing interests are humour, horror and the writing craft.

A former beekeeper, she was commissioned to write a beginners’ book on beekeeping by Weaver Press in 1992. She was a spoof agony aunt for The Lark, an “adult” newspaper sold around the pubs in the Midlands. She worked as a reporter with the Skegness Standard newspaper for a number of years and has been a columnist for online writers’ magazines.

A Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist, she landed a job as overseas correspondent to the Tokyo-based Hiragana Times when returning from an annual pilgrimage to Head Temple Taisekiji in the foothills of Mount Fuji. She retired two years ago to the old market town of Market Rasen in Lincolnshire, England, with her husband Nick and their adored Border terrier Brucie.

Her poetry ebook Collywobblers (InkSpotter Publishing, 2008) was recently re-released as a Smashwords edition.

What motivated you to start writing?

In a word, poverty! Though perhaps I should explain that that's what motivated me to become a professional writer. I'd been writing as a hobby for as long as I can remember.

What is the primary source of inspiration for you?

I'm mainly inspired by the beauty of nature. Then my nasty mind gives it a malevolent twist.

Do you write when the muse strikes, or do you follow a writing schedule?

I'm the one who does the striking. I beat my muse with a big stick until the ideas come flowing out.

Please describe your process.

Oh, wow! That implies some sort of method. That's a concept that's quite alien to my disordered mind.

What have you done to promote yourself as a writer?

I write press releases. I used to be a reporter on a regional newspaper, so I know what works and what doesn't. Sadly, too many people think they have an absolute right to see their press releases in print. Not so—they have to grovel to somebody like me or their words end up in the waste bin or are deleted from the editorial computer.

What's left to do?

I'm doing what a lot of people my age do (I'm in my 70th year). I've started writing a novel, which I'll probably never finish. In fact, the only way it's likely to get in print is if it's published posthumously, in which case it will be a huge success because writers are usually only deemed to be of interest once they're dead.

When did you discover your unique voice? How long did the process take?

I like to think my voice has always been unique. It's that disordered mind at work again!

What do you consider your greatest achievement as a writer?

For the last few years before I became a senior citizen with a pension, I actually made a living as a writer. Admittedly, my needs are simple, which is just as well as I haven't made a fortune.

What's the most recent book you read?

Believe it or not, it was The Official DSA Guide to Driving, The Essential Skills. Yes, I've actually started learning to drive at my advanced age. I haven't actually killed anyone yet, though if I did it would make great copy.

Who are the writers you admire most?

Oh gosh, you'll find me really boring now. I'm a devoted Jane Austen fan, and my favourite poets are Philip Larkin and Dylan Thomas. And I absolutely loathe Shakespeare. I think he's the most overrated literary figure of all time.

What's your best piece of advice for novice writers?

Read every piece of advice from established writers that you can possibly find. Then do things your own way.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Writing is the most rewarding and the most fun job imaginable. If you're not having fun with your writing, don't bother doing it. There are easier ways to earn a living.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sometimes a publisher gets lucky

Sometimes a publisher gets lucky.

Sometimes a manuscript comes in that has been vetted and edited by multiple hands and has a solid marketing plan...not to mention its own kick-butt cover art.

That's what happened to me with Lifelines.

The poetry collection was originally pitched to me during last year's Muse Online Writers Conference. There was no mistaking the effort and dedication of the co-authors, known collectively as The Poetic Muselings. They'd refined their manuscript through multiple versions and consulted with experienced mentors in developing their marketing plan. I knew, without a doubt, that I wanted to read their book.

A year later, Lifelines is a reality. available on Amazon and CreateSpace. Lin Neiswender's beautiful collage graces the cover, and her words share space on the inside with the five other Muselings (Michele M. Graf, Margaret Fieland, Anne Westlund, Mary W. Jensen and Kristen Howe).

True to their original pitch, The Poetic Muselings are putting every effort into marketing their book. They're a publisher's dream come true.