Coming to us from Mansfield, Ohio, Carma Haley Shoemaker is our featured writer this week. Shoemaker is the author of "A Cut Above," "Marriage vs Parenthood," "A Woman Alone," as well as hundreds of other articles, essays and poems in print and online. She is also the Senior Administrator & Moderator at Momwriters.com, one of the oldest and largest online writing communities.
- You have been quoted saying you “can’t remember a time” when you didn’t write. Can you tell us about your first written piece? How old were you?
My first written piece was a poem I had written for my eighth grade English class. I was maybe 12 or 13 years old at the time. I had written many, many things before this, but nothing that I had shared with anyone. The assignment was to collect poems that "touched us, reached out to us, or stated something we felt or believed." The teacher stated if we couldn't find all the required poems we could write one or two of our own to include. Of course, I wrote and included two of my own even though I found all those required for the assignment.
After getting my graded assignment back, the teacher asked me if I would allow him to enter one of my poems into a contest for young poets. I don't even think I let him tell me everything about the contest before screaming out my answer! "Yes!! Enter it!" While I didn't win, I felt at that moment that if my teacher thought that I was good enough to enter a contest, then, well, maybe I was actually good enough. I still have that assignment paper book, even now. Every time I'll be looking through my papers and I run across it, I can't help but smile.
- Having graduated with a nursing degree from North Central State College, I like your statement about “being a nurse by trade and a writer by nature”. How much of what you write is based on inspiration?
Because of what I do, what I have done in my past work experience, as well as what I've seen, witnessed and the people I've had the pleasure to know, I find that I am inspired to write quite often -- usually on a daily basis. I may find myself jotting down notes on the back of a napkin while out to eat with my family after talking to them about someone I knew while working at the nursing home; I may type up a story in-between checking my email when a message I receive reminds me of a person I treated at the hospital; or I may sit at the dining room table, scribbling in my notebook after watching a movie that made me remember someone I lost long, long ago.
Do I think that a person is born a writer? Of course -- I think I was. However, even if a person wasn't born a writer that doesn't mean that they can't learn to love it, to want to live the life of a writer, to do it for a living, or learn to be a damn good one. No one is born knowing how to ride a bike, play football, bowl, type, or flip pancakes. You learn how to do these things by doing them, practicing them, and then doing them again. Then one day, before you know it, someone looks at you and says, "Hey! You're pretty good at [that]!" The same can be said for writing, too.
- As a busy mom of three, can you give us an example of how you structure your day or week in order to make time for writing?
The only good advice I can give for making time for writing, is: to make time for your writing. I know -- doesn't sound like that makes sense, does it? But if you think about it, just as one size blue jeans won't fit every person's body, one way of making time for your writing isn't going to work for every writer, either.
What worked for me was thinking of it just as if I was going to work outside my home. Depending on the time of year (whether it was summer break or the school year for he boys), I would have a set work schedule. During those set hours, I worked -- period. I didn't answer the phone (unless it was my husband or the school calling for one of my boys), I didn't answer the door, and I didn't run errands. Some days I was very productive and wrote like crazy. Other days, I was lucky if I wrote an opening line or an email. But I stuck to it.
Now while this worked for me, it might not work for someone else. They need to find something that will work for them. It doesn't matter what it is, as long as they are making time for their writing.
- I have been a member of MomWriters.com for many years and have been impressed with the support and encouragement provided within the group. In your role as Senior Administrator, do you feel it is important to reach out to new member as well as support existing?
I can't express to you in the words I can offer here how important I feel it is to reach out to new members, as well as for the "veteran" members to continue to support each other. It is SO important.
There are writers out there who don't have support in any aspect in their life when it comes to their writing. They want to write -- it pains them they want it so badly. They do it in secret if they have to. They have tried to share it with their family and friends but have received feedback such as, "Why would you want to do something stupid like that?" or "You can't write -- you're not a real writer!" or maybe even, "Who do you think you are? J.K. Rowling?" Their efforts may be met with laughter, or anger, and it makes them feel that writing is not worth all of "this," so they quit, they don't write anymore.
Momwriters gives these writers a place to turn for support when no one else will support them. We offer them a place to say, "I want to write but my family says ..." and we listen, we hear them, and we know how they feel because more than one of the 1700+ of us have been there. We let them know that it is okay to write and that they CAN do it. We help them see that if they want to write -- if writing is what they really want to do -- then a nonsupportive family of friends who don't understand should not stop them.
We have all been "beginners" at one time in our lives and we all know how scary it is. By offering each other support, Momwriters helps to make the whole process a little less scary.
- As we wrap up our interview, I’d like to ask you to share something about the business side of your writing profession. What have you found to be helpful?
One of the things that I have found to be the most helpful in my writing career is the types of contacts I have made. I do a lot of medical and writing related to woman's issues, so naturally, I have made contacts in the medical field. By keeping in touch with these people, communicating them, keeping the lines open, and letting them know where I am writing needs, I am able to keep up to date on any new trends, phases, policy changes, latest crazes, etc. Often times, I get new leads and article ideas as a result. It's always a good idea to make contacts in the area of writing you specialize in, as you never know when one of these contacts can lead you in the direction of something very exciting and new.
You can visit Carma at her blog, CarmicWords.blog.com . To learn more about Mom Writers, visit MomWriters.