Sunday, August 23, 2009

Living... with Chas Ridley

Having her own publishing company has allowed Chas Ridley to enjoy personal contact with her readers and given her more control over the release of her books. Based in Western Washington, this prolific writer has been honing her craft for decades.

Her books include The Turnip Mercedes and Other Tasty Tales, Pioneer Lessons: 87 Things I Almost Wish We’d Known, Lessons to Share: Workbook for a Healthy Family, Black Hole: Unexpected Tool for Joyous Living, On Shifting Sands and Other Poems of Transition, and Limitless Internetworking – One Person at a Time. I’m happy to welcome her to Writers In Business.

~ Your writing focuses on life including stories for adults, children and poetry. The transitions we experience through each stage of our lives seem to be the inspiration for your writing. Do you keep a journal or diary to document your experiences? Does this become material for your books?

I’ve kept journals since fifth grade, when someone gave me a cute locking diary with one page for every day. Loved the idea of writing something every day that I could look at years down the line. Even then, my entries weren’t limited to what I did or saw during the day. More often, they were something I wanted to think about later. One of those fifth grade entries was: “Why do people build a house where the [Mississippi] river ate the old one?”

Through the years, the journals have become an odd personal history of things that did and did not happen, people I’ve met or wished I had, the occasional news flash, wish lists, promises to myself, places I want to go, poems and the sillier “pomes,” and titles of pieces written or revised. Some years I kept track of correspondence. Plus, of course, several lifetimes worth of things to think about later.

Some of the old journals were killed by flood (not the Mississippi) and other destructive events. The rest fill several shelves with moments I treasure enough to haul around the countryside every time I move. Whenever I think about putting those old notes onto the computer and not having to pack and unpack them, I remember how much pleasure comes from sitting on the floor flipping pages as I read.

The journals are an end in themselves, a way to clear my mind so I can get on with my life and whichever stories are at the top of the day’s list. Then, too, they’re a resource when I want to find details about something in particular. I use them as a resource for my stories, poems and books.

They are more often fertilizer than seeds.

~ When it comes to the financial side of your writing business, do you use computer software to track income and expenses? If so, which program? If not, can you describe the system that works for you?

After trying several existing programs, I went back to an Excel spreadsheet that is an overview of all my personal and business finances. I link the overview sheet to individual spreadsheets for the various components – each book and project has its own, and there’s another called “Maybe Someday.”

These spreadsheets prove something I’ve always known, that writing can be a very expensive way to make a living. They keep me on track, too, remembering that I can’t write to the exclusion of everything else. That I must knuckle down and peddle some of what I write. Let other people enjoy my words and photographs and pay me for the privilege.

Strange as it sounds even to me, that’s a hard lesson I’m still working on.

~ What projects are you currently working on?

I'm working on a novel focused on a mother and daughter that an early reader says reminds him of his favorite spiritual readings. A coffee table book, Talking With Trees, that includes the complete poem I used part of as the poem in the 2009 calendar. Living With Grief, which I’ve let loose twice and pulled back both times because it felt incomplete.

Also, I’m putting together a collection of greeting cards with verse and photographs. This is something I’ve meant to do for about 10 years, and finally it’s happening.

Plus I mean to blog again. I did it for a short time several years back, then let myself get sidetracked. Reading other people’s blogs has me itchy to do my own again.

I'm thinking about adding sleep to my list of projects, but there’s never enough time to check it off regularly, so I’ll just keep writing instead.

Chas, you are an amazing woman! A true inspiration for writers! Thank you for joining us today and for sharing your love of writing. You can learn more about Chas by visiting her web site Living... with Chas.