Interview with Traci L. Jones
Our featured author is Traci L. Jones.
Raised in Denver, Traci L. Jones is the author of award-winning contemporary YA novels about teens struggling with real-life problems. She is an instructor in the Regis University MFA-Creative Writing program, and she really knows her stuff. I first heard her present at last year’s Georgetown Indie Conference, where I was blown away by her informative and engaging workshop on writing YA. I left that one-hour session with a much better understanding of the tropes of YA as well as a fully brainstormed new novel idea. And she was kind enough to share some of her insights on writing with us here!
Bonnie McKnight, Membership Director
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
In a word. Yes. Like most things writing days can be good and bad. There are days where the muse whispers lovingly in your ear and words and sentences, paragraphs and pages flow smoothly and brilliantly from your head to your fingers to the page. Unfortunately, those days are pretty rare and should be cherished. Most days, writing is hard work. It’s wishing you knew where your character was going, wishing you knew what they should be saying. It’s the searching your brain for the right words, it’s thinking all the imagery you are using has been used before. As the quote goes – the satisfaction is to HAVE written.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Trying to write for the market, thinking they can’t write, or even worse, thinking they CAN write without polishing their skills and learning the craft. One of the worst traps is starting, but not finishing (and not sending out) their finished work.
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
Having confidence in your work is absolutely necessary but being so confident that you think you are beyond improvement or learning can hurt you. You should always doubt your work just enough to think you can write better. You should never think you are too good to attend a workshop or craft lesson here or there.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Don’t stop writing because one person doesn’t like what you’ve written or how you write. (I took an English class my freshman year in college and encountered a professor who told me I was a horrible writer. I took that one negative class experience to heart, all the while ignoring years of previous teachers who had told me I was a good writer. Subsequently, I didn’t take another English class until last semester my senior year.) Writing is subjective; you can’t expect everyone to like what you’ve written.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Honestly, it sucked much of the joy out of it. It is strange. You want more than anything to be published. When I was it was great, and I was fortunate enough to win an award for my first book. The award caused my publisher to want another manuscript and quickly. I am a slow writer but I rushed the other manuscript to the publisher and it was a mess. It remains my worst-selling book and for good reason. So, in short, being published increased the level of stress surrounding writing. It puts pressure on you from yourself, from your agent or publisher and from your readers, from family, from whomever knows you had a book published. It takes a bit of the joy from writing because it turns it into a job.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Going to University of Denver’s Creative Writing certificate program. It turned my writing from amateur to publishable. It made me look at writing much differently than simply making up stories in my head.
What does literary success look like to you?
Consistent publishing. And royalty checks that are more than three figures.
Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
Nothing comes to mind.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Rejection and editing. Rejection is never any fun and it always feels personal although it shouldn’t. If J.K. Rowling and Stephen King got rejected there’s little hope for us non-superstar writers. Rejection is inevitable and necessary if you are to consider yourself a professional writer. Editing can feel demoralizing and boring. It’s also hard to do and necessary. I’m also awful at finding my own typos and comma splices.
What is your most unusual writing quirk?
I don’t write every day. It’s less of a quirk and more of a bad habit actually.
How do you think being a writer has helped you as a person?
It makes you really listen to people, think about their problems and focus on their reactions. You are more likely to think about the why behind their actions and responses. Which makes you much more empathetic.
Give a shout-out to a fellow author.
R. Alan Brooks, Denise Vega, Lori Ostlund
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
Ideally – an editor or a film director
While raising her kids and helping with the pharmacy, Mrs. Jones was reminded of her love for writing and began working towards earning a Creative Writing Certificate at the University of Denver. One of those courses led to the writing and completion of her first book, Standing Against the Wind. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2006, her first novel would win the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award. Two more books followed in 2010 and 2011, Finding My Place and Silhouetted by the Blue. She is represented by Patty Carouthers at Metamorphosis Literary Agency.
Learn more about Traci at www.traciljones.com