Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Meet Martha Schoemaker

Holy schmoley, I'm posting two days in a row! I hope this doesn't startle any of my six followers into a state of shock. Breathe easy, guys, and I'll try not to make any sudden movements.

Today's post is on Martha Schoemaker, fabulous friend and critique partner extraordinaire. She, too, is an aspiring author, but her genre is women's fiction. Martha has a Master's degree in Counseling and Student Services from the University of North Texas, and she is a former elementary school teacher and school counselor. In addition to being a writer, she is currently a tutor for people with dyslexia. She and I met in 2002 while taking The Art of Fiction, a Field's End class taught by David Guterson.

When Martha writes, she paints a scene so beautifully, you feel like you're right there. She selects strong verbs and has a killer Southern voice. Her characters are colorful, and her descriptions are vivid. All five senses are woven into her writing. I learn when I edit Martha's work, and I look forward to reading her pages.

Some favorite Martha moments:

*Laughing so hard we cry. This happens on a regular basis.

*Trying to write in each other's voice.

*Brainstorming book ideas together. She rocks at brainstorming.

Martha, thank you for being my first victim--I mean, featured writer.

What authors or books have inspired you the most?

It's not a unique choice, but my favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird. I love the way Harper Lee told two stories that dove-tailed so beautifully. And the theme of racial intolerance touched me because I'm old enough to remember separate "colored" waiting rooms in my doctor's office when I was really young. Even at the age of six I knew that was just wrong. I read it every ten years or so, and I read a different book each time. (Those of you who read a lot will understand exactly what that means!)

A more current choice is Richard Russo's Empire Falls. I read it twice, and other than To Kill a Mockingbird and The Catcher in the Rye, I haven't read a book more than once since I read Charlotte's Web eight times in the third grade. I've also read Bridge of Sighs and Nobody's Fool and enjoyed both of them. Russo is a master at using language and creating memorable, fully realized characters. He's made me laugh so hard my bed shook, and then cry on the next page. If I could do that, I would die happy!

You've been writing and working on craft for years, just as I have. We've seen each other grow so much as writers. If you were to meet a brand-spanking-new writer today who wanted a couple tips, what advice would you give?

I would say to be prepared for a long haul, and, to quote Winston Churchill, "Never, never, never give up." However, that is easier said than done. I'm working on a second novel, and I have really struggled with thoughts of 'why bother' when the publishing industry is so hard to break into. I'll keep at it, though!

Also, write every day, or at least as often as possible. I've had some interruptions due to travel and family issues, and it's really hard to get back into a project.

It's essential to find a good critique group. Writing is so isolating, and my critique group keeps me going. And every once in a while, magic happens when we least expect it while we are batting around ideas!

I'm also motivated by taking classes. I've taken classes in literary and popular fiction through the University of Washington's extension program, through a local writers' organization called Field's End, and more recently, I finally got to take a class at Hugo House in Seattle. I love to learn, and classes really help me hone my craft and motivate me to keep going.

What else keeps you motivated?

I simply love to read. Seeing someone buy my book or check it out of the library would be the thrill of a lifetime.

Being very familiar with your work, Martha, I'm certain that it's just a matter of time. I believe in you.

Thanks again for taking time to answer my questions!

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