Monday, March 19, 2012

Holly Michael on Journalism and Fiction

Author Holly Michael
Clare: I'm pleased to introduce my friend, fellow novelist and blogger, Holly Michael. Holly is quite a world traveler and has met and befriended many interesting people. Let's see what Holly's up to.
If you look me up on Twitter—(and by all means, go ahead. Follow me. I’ll follow you. We’ll be friends. It’ll be cool.)—you’ll see that my profile reads: Author, Editor, Journalist, Ghostwriter, Book Reviewer

If you look me up on Google, make sure you click on Holly Michael, the author/blogger and not Holly Michael, the Porn Star. I blog about that here: (Um…Holly Michael, the porn star shares my name. I haven’t been one, just in case there’s any confusion.)

Picture Books
Clare asked me to write about my transition from journalist to novelist. My journey into the published world began fifteen years ago, when I quit writing. Yes, when I quit. My plan, at that time, was not to become a journalist, or a novelist. With no college degree, and three little kids, my goal was to publish a picture book. When the mail delivered another rejection letter (the rejection letter that broke the writer’s resolve), I quit. I even announced my quitting to God, just to make it permanent and binding. An hour later, after returning from a walk, my answering machine was blinking.

At the beep, an editor for Guideposts for Teens magazine said she wanted to publish my essay. The next day, I got a check in the mail from a parenting magazine along with a copy of my first published work. I guess God didn’t take me seriously, and had His own plan for me. Publishing doors began to open. I immediately pitched an essay idea to the Guideposts editor, and I became a regular freelancer for them, while selling essays to other magazines.

To Journalism and Beyond
Years later, in a church bulletin, I read a help wanted ad for a diocese reporter. They hired me as their freelancer and I began pitching some of the same stories, along with new ones, to my local and state newspaper. Then, when I needed a full time job, I got hired as a features writer by the local newspaper to which I’d been freelancing. What a great experience. I had to churn out stories quickly. I wrote weekly 2-3K features stories along with three smaller stories for the weekend entertainment section. What a difference from the longer lead times I had with magazine writing.

To avoid this post becoming a book length biography, I’ll sum up what I learned. While connections led me from one writing experience to the next, I also had to do my part. I jumped on any writing opportunity that dared cross my path, sometimes discovering diverse writing opportunities. Maybe because I didn’t pigeonhole myself as a writer, I was able to grab new opportunities. I wrote a biography for someone, was hired to create a magazine for Wal-Mart Headquarters, edited online stories for Guideposts, did editing for corporations, etc.

Becoming a Novelist
After doing editing work for a company, the president of that corporation asked me to write a script for a seminar series he was teaching. A few years later, he phoned and asked if I’d write a novel based on certain criteria, to go along with the seminar class. I was hooked on fiction.

My difficulty in transitioning from journalism and nonfiction, was learning to loosen up and cease writing in formal AP style. Learn the rules, then break them. Write fragmented sentences and loosen up the dialogue.

What Helped Me Along the Way: 

  • Understanding, helpful editors, who had patience with me. 
  • Critique groups: Internet Writers Workshop is great, but Clare uses
  • A Few Good How to Books: Stephen King’s On Writing, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King, The Complete Guide to Writing Fiction and Nonfiction, by Pat Kubis and Bob Howland. 

And to quote a very good author and friend, Rick Bylina: THE ONLY RULE: WRITERS WRITE! EVERYTHING ELSE IS A GUIDELINE.

My Novels:

  • Crooked Lines (Now being read by an agent)
  • I’ll Be Seeing You (final edits)
  • Another unnamed WIP in the conception stage

New Project:
I just landed a new assignment to write a book about sports and type I diabetes for the parents of children with diabetes. A soon-to-be NFL Player has asked me to write this book during the next off-season and I’m so honored and proud because the athlete is my son.

You can read about that story here:

I didn’t really plan on becoming a blogger, but have discovered that blogging and reading blogs connects me with others in an uplifting give and take learning experience.
Well, there you have it. Holly is an inspiration to us all. When we put our problems in God's hands He has a way of making it straight. I'm looking forward to Holly's story about her son. What a testament to a mother's love and a child's determination.

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