Monday, August 29, 2011

Getting to know you: Beth Kemp

Last week, I signed up for Rach Harrie's Third Writer's Platform-Building Campaign. She has put hours into organising link-ups and challenges and what not so that we, the writerly bloggers can get together, find each other and build our platforms. Now does this kind of thing work? Well, I for one am not expecting my readership to jump from double digits to quadruple. For me, it would be nice to get to know some people, and that's what this series of interviews is all about. Thanks to Rachael, I've had the chance to get to know a few people a bit more. I've found out where they are on their writing journey, if they are still unpublished, self-published or published. But I wanted to start this series with a special interview. If some of you are a bit dubious about whether these challenges work, I wanted to start with an interview to show you that: yes challenges do help you make new friends. See, Beth is a fellow campaigner, but I met her at the beginning of the year when we both signed up to do the British Book Challenge. We started to follow each other's blogs and we found out we had one or two things in common et voila. Without further ado, read on, and you guys get to know Beth too. 

So, like me Beth, you have a full time job (6th Form English teacher) and you're a parent, how do you fit in the writing?
With difficulty! It helps that my kids aren't little now (the youngest is almost 8), so their demands aren't so constant. My family are really supportive of my writing, thankfully. I don't know how I'd manage if they didn't take it seriously and encourage me when I'm struggling. My husband is a stay-at-home Dad so I don't have housework or laundry to worry about and it's quite easy to find family time as there's only one job (and school) to work around.

The job can get in the way though! As you well know, teaching is not a 9-5 job, so it's a question of being really disciplined about how much of my time I allow it to take up. The non-fiction writing I've been successful with so far is all teaching-related so sometimes I'm doubling up by producing something for publication that I will also be using in the classroom myself. I'm trying to work on fiction daily at the moment, even if it's literally only for a few minutes. 

So you write fiction and non-fiction; what are the similarities and differences between the two?  
I feel quite differently about fiction and non-fiction. For me, the non-fiction has always been commissioned or agreed before I start writing and, to some extent, I'm writing to someone else's plan. Even when I'm producing teaching materials or articles for students which I have pitched (and are therefore my ideas), they're still driven by what A Level English students need to know or be able to do. The fiction stuff, however, is always free and unconstrained. I realise of course that's not entirely true - we need to write what children are likely to want to read - but there is a much greater freedom in the fiction work.  

Did non-fiction lead to writing fiction or vice versa? Or have you always done both?
I'd written fiction as a child and teenager, but gave up in my mid-late teens, believing it had all been done and I had nothing to add. I only really picked it up again once I'd had some success with the non-fiction stuff: that's what led me to take my own writing seriously again. I'd made a website for my students with revision notes etc, which has grown and become quite well-used. The networking I'd done through that led to writing for student magazines and an offer to collaborate on a textbook. Those things were the encouragement I needed to try fiction writing again. I'm glad I did; fiction writing gives me so much pleasure. 

I'm a  little obsessed by this, so are you a plotter or pantster?
Absolutely plotter. I plan the non-fiction too - I can't start without knowing where I'm going. I have to be careful that it doesn't become a busywork kind of procrastination, but I do work best with fairly detailed chapter-level plans when writing stories. For non-fiction, I'll have word counts by section or topic to help me as well.  

As a fellow writer, can you share your top writing tip?
Read your work aloud when you're starting fine editing (i.e. not big plot stuff, but word choice and sentence structure). Yes, you may feel like an idiot, but you will catch things you'd otherwise have missed.

I like to share things I find that help me to write, so what's your most valuable writing resource?
My family. Largely my husband. He believes in my writing as worthwhile and valuable - to my mental health as well as it having brought in extra pennies - and helps me not to see it as personal indulgence. The girls are also supportive and know to leave me alone when I'm writing, but that's because they see that Daddy takes it seriously, I'm sure.  
Ah! I guess this is one resource we can't share then :)

So to finish off this week's interview, why did you join the challenge?
I've been blogging a lot more over the summer and it's something I want to continue once term restarts, but I do find it a lot easier with a focus or structure. I enjoyed the A-Z Challenge a lot and found the restriction of themed posts led me to write about some really interesting things that I wouldn't have come up with normally. I read quite a lot of blogs and feel ready to pick up some more, but it's not always easy to discover new blogs to follow. This campaign is perfect for showcasing blogs by people with similar and complementary interests. I'm looking forward to making new friends - and continuing to get to know others!

Thanks for the interesting questions. I've enjoyed trying to explain some of my feelings about writing.
Thank you Beth, and I hope you'll join me next week for our next campaigner. If you'd like to find out more about Beth, you can find her at Thoughts from the Hearthfire, and on Twitter as @BethKemp

Also before this post wraps up, I just want to remind you that there is NO USE CRYING about going back to work on Thursday 1st September. In fact there's just NO USE CRYING at all, but why? Be sure to pop back on the 1st to find out why. 


L'Aussie said...

Hi Michele. Lovely to meet a fellow campaigner and to read the interview. You are clever to fit in writing with all your commitments. But we can't not do it, can we? Hope to get to know you better during the campaign.


Michele Helene (Verilion) said...

Oh Hi Denise,
I read your comment and thought, wow is that THE L'Aussie? I was given your Fair Dinkum award from Rachna Chhabria months ago. It's lovely how these kind of things help us all connect. I'm glad you liked the interview. I'll be doing them every Monday throughout the campaign.

MG Higgins said...

Hi Michele. I'm a fellow campaigner and new follower. Enjoyed the interview! I also write both nonfiction and fiction and could relate to Beth's comments. Looking forward to getting to know you better.

Sarah McCabe said...

Hello from a fellow campaigner! I too am hoping to meet new people and make friends. :)

Stephanie said...

Great interview. I'm astounded by writers who have full time jobs, spouses and kids and still find time for writing each day. I hope I can manage that in the future.

MC Rogerson said...

I've just joined your group on the writing campaign (lifebeyond)and have just checked out your blog. Looks great and am looking forward to following!

Michele Helene (Verilion) said...

Hey guys, thanks for dropping by and I'm glad you enjoyed the interview. And Stephanie, you'll find the time. What's the old adage, the busier you are, the more you do.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Hearing about Beth writing with a full-time+ job reminds me I can do this. Thanks for the interview, Michele and Beth!

Michele Helene (Verilion) said...

You can do it Shannon and you will do it :)

MISH said...

Hi Michele . I just signed up now for the campaign ... just managed to squeeze in before it closes in ... 7 hours ? Not sure because I'm in the Southern Hemisphere so there is a time difference !
Nice to meet you and I'm certain we will connect again during the campaign .

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

*waves* from a fellow campaigner. Great interview and so nice to meet Beth!

Michele Helene (Verilion) said...

Hi Mish and Susan, so glad you enjoyed the interview, there will be another one on Monday. Talking of which, I suppose I ought to get it ready.


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