As I announced in December, I will be teaching a workshop on journalistic writing* at the 35th annual Southeastern Writers Association conference in June 2010.
To gear up for that, I am featuring interviews and spotlights with this year’s presenters.**
Next up is freelancer Amy Munnell.
ABOUT THE PRESENTER
Long-time Southeastern Writers Association board member (as well as former VP, workshop faculty coordinator and publications editor), Munnell has been a freelance writer and editor for 25 years.
In addition to running her own PR firm and doing publicity, instructing and serving as a script consultant at a children’s theater, Munnell has had pieces published in several newspapers, magazines and anthologies, including: Athens Magazine, ByLine, Chocolate for a Woman’s Soul, From the Heart II, Georgia Magazine and Points North.
For more about Munnell, please visit her blog.
RS: How did you get into writing?
AM: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t make up stories. Whether playing with Barbies, stuffed animals or my siblings—there are eight of us—there was always a story to be played, reworked and played again. When I started reading, I would insert myself into my favorite books or take the characters and plan new adventures for them.
I decided I was going to be a professional writer in high school. The movie All the President’s Men was released, [and] although I didn’t see the movie until a few years ago, I knew the story and was amazed—impressed at the power wielded by the words of Woodward and Bernstein. I was also totally in love with Robert Redford.
RS: What keeps you writing?
AM: My writing partner, Sheila Hudson, a lot of time.
I like to play with words, the sounds or alliterations, the imagery. Revealing character through dialogue—how subtly can I do it. I also like learning about things and people and sharing what I learn.
RS: What do you do when you’re not writing?
AM: I work part time as the registrar for an organization that offers noncredit classes to retired people.
I travel when I can.
I love movies, hanging out with friends—and I read.
RS: What draws you to freelancing?
AM: I have interviewed teachers, veterinarians, collectors, research scientists, politicians, athletes, authors, historians, Native Americans, musicians, the list is loooooonnnnngggg.
The subject matter is equally as varied. It is rarely boring, and, sometimes, it is downright fascinating.
RS: What are you currently working on?
AM: With Sheila, we have a nonfiction book proposal with an agent. I am also working on getting my blog/zine up and running again: 3 Questions…and Answers.
I am doing some editing for couple of people. One has a nonfiction book on politics, and the other has a sports-themed screenplay.
RS: What’s one genre or type of writing in which you’d like to dabble but haven’t yet—and why?
AM: A novel was my last hold out, and in November, I gave that a shot. Wrote about 9,000 words and floundered.
RS: What book(s) currently adorn your nightstand?
AM: I use audiobooks, so they are on my iPod.
I am rereading [C.S. Lewis’s] The Chronicles of Narnia (love them!). Then, I have [Erik Larson’s] The Devil in the White City and [F. Scott Fitzgerald’s] The Great Gastby—also a reread.
RS: Name an author that helped shape who you are as a writer and how he or she had that effect on you.
AM: Philip Lee Williams. He was the editor of the weekly newspaper and published two op-ed pieces, my first publications, just after I got out of college. He was also the subject of my first magazine feature.
We have talked many, many times since then, and I’ve followed his career, reviewing several of his books for magazines. I have learned so much from him and his work. He’s an extremely versatile writer and has never written the same book twice. He has an incredible dedication to his art, squeezing writing between his family and a full-time job for most of his career.
I have often passed on his advice. My favorite: “Never let what you have to do keep you from doing what you want to do.”
W. Thomas Smith, Jr. is another one. He has had a career I wish I had had. He taught for SWA twice and offered great tips on not only writing but also how to sell your story idea and how to approach editors.
He also gave me a very good lesson about two years ago in perception and being sure what I write is what I intend to say:
I interviewed him for 3 Questions and tried to illustrate how well he came through a very difficult and sensitive incident in his career, but he didn’t read it that way at all. It wasn’t just “I don’t like it.” He completely missed my intent. Now, I could explain it to him but I couldn’t call everyone who reads the article to explain. I had to rework my words, restructure and re-present the material to clarify my point. The challenge made me more precise.
RS: Can you give us a quick teaser about the course you’ll be teaching at Southeastern Writers Association?
AM: I am teaching with Sheila Hudson, and [the course is] called “Bright Ideas: Tips to Make Your Writing Sparkle.” It is three days of classes and one critique day.
My topics are: Getting it Right in the End, Submitting Etiquette and Rewrite, Reslant, Reach New Readers.
Sometimes it is a little thing that keeps your work from being published. We hope to offer tools that will help you polish off those rough little things and get published.
*To learn more about the workshop I’m teaching, click here.
**For more SWA Presenter Spotlights, click the appropriately-named category in the right-hand sidebar.