Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Spotlight Author with Barbara Baig

Hello friends. I have a wonderful author with me today, Barbara Baig. Remember I told all of you at the beginning of the year that I was working on some things to improve my blog? Well this is one of them. I thought it would be nice to help out my writing friends as well as those of you who have always wanted to write a book, but never have. Over the next couple of months you will see interviews from authors of books on writing. Today Barbara is here to share with us. She is also giving away a copy of her book!!! Yeah. Good luck everyone!

HOW TO BE A WRITER BUILDING YOUR CREATIVE SKILLS THROUGH PRACTICE AND PLAY, is Barbara Baigs latest book. Barbara, tell us how your book will help us become better writers.

Hello, Micole, and thank you very much for inviting me to your blog. My book, How To Be a Writer, will help aspiring writers in two main ways. First, unlike many writing books and workshops, which focus on the psychology of the writer, my book presents learning to write in a very down-to-earth and practical way. The book's premise is that writing is a certain kind of work, the work of communication, and that everyone can learn how to do this work. The book explains some of the basic skills people need in order to do this work. Then, second, the book shows how aspiring writers can learn their skills--through practice. The book removes the focus of becoming a writer from the realm of the psyche and puts it where I think it belongs, in the realm of learning.

Do writers ever stop practicing?

I think that writers never stop practicing, as long as they are always learning. There's a story I love (it's in the book) about the Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy. One day he was visiting a friend and picked up one of his own published books and started reading it. After a few minutes he exclaimed, "Oh, this is terrible! Now I see how I should have written this!" Even the writers we call "great" are always learning and developing their skills.

In your book, HOW TO BE A WRITER, you have many practice exercises, which one is your favorite? And why?

I particularly like the practices in the section on imagination, because they are so much fun to do!

Does writing ever get any easier?

Absolutely! If you see writing as work which requires certain skills, and you set yourself to learn those skills, then once you have developed them the work of writing becomes much less difficult, because you know what you are doing. The more you practice your skills, the more using them becomes second nature to you.

How do you help writers find their voice?

"Voice" is one of those words that gets thrown around a lot in writing workshops, and it's usually considered to come from the writer's psyche. I have a different view of what voice in writing is: it's skill in the use of language. To acquire that skill you must learn everything you can about how diction and syntax work in English, so that you can make choices about words and about how to put them together into clear and powerful sentences. Mastery of diction and syntax skills is the subject of my next book, which I'm working on now.

What is the most rewarding thing for you about teaching others about the craft of writing?

I believe that having skill in writing is tremendously empowering, whether people want to be professional writers or they need to write in school or at work. I have taught all kinds of writers, not just those who are aspiring creative writers--for example, I spent twenty years teaching graduate students at Harvard Divinity School, and I've also taught graduate students in management and other fields. I just love to help people acquire the power that writing skills can bring!

What is the best advice you can offer to aspiring authors?

Understand that becoming a writer is a lifelong journey in learning. Take the time to learn your skills before you attempt to break into the business of writing. Make a place in your life now for learning your skills: when you sit down to write, instead of spending all of your time trying to produce finished pieces, spend some of it in practice writing that will help you develop your skills. Professional athletes and musicians spend much more time practicing than they do in performance; that's why they get so good at what they do. Writers who spend time developing and perfecting their skills through practice will eventually be ready to compete in the professional business of writing--and they will stand out because they have become expert at what they do. You also offer workshops.

What kind of workshops do you teach and where do you teach them?

I teach workshops in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Lesley University: one is on the art of the English sentence; the other is on story. I also give talks and workshops elsewhere: for example, I will be in Portland, Maine on March 5, 2011, for a conference on the business of writing hosted by the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. I'm always interested in giving workshops; I can be reached via my website.

Where can we find out more information about you, your books, and your workshops?

You can get more information at my website (which features free writing lessons): My book is widely available, in local bookstores and online.
Barbara, thank you so much for spending time with me on my blog.

It was a pleasure, Micole. Thanks for inviting me.

If you don’t have Barbara’s book, I suggest you take a trip to the book store, or skip the trip and head to the computer to order it. I have this book, have read it, and worked through most of the exercises. It is a wonderful learning tool. For those of you feeling stressed about your writing. Take a break for a couple of days and go through some of the writing practices in Barbara’s book. You won’t be sorry.

Thank you all for stopping in. Barbara was kind enough to give a copy of her book to me to give away. So comment away!!!! One lucky commenter will win the book!!!! I keep forgetting to ask that when you do comment for a contest to please leave your email address so I can get in touch with you if you are a winner. Also readers... don't forget about the contest Aquiring editor, Donna O'brien has for you. If you missed the post last week scroll down to find it or you can look on the side bar for all of the details! Check back with me tomorrow… right here for a four-part series on hero’s. ;-)

See you tomorrow.




Sheri Humphreys said...

Thank you for the interesting interview. Sheri

Michele said...

It's always good to learn all that you can about writing. Thanks for the interview!
-Michele Powers

Connie Wood said...

Hi Barbara and Micole,
Great interview and it looks like a fantastic book. I love writing books that balance the ideals of writing as work, pleasure and imagination. There does seem to be this myth that you are born a writer, but it is a learned process that is exciting and rewarding. Storytelling is a great art form and thanks for sharing your ideas guys.
Connie Wood

Micole Black said...


thanks to all of you for stopping by. I will let you know tomorrow who the winner is! ;-)


Micole Black said...

Congratulations Michelle!!!!! You are the winner!!!!