Updated: Feb 21
Author interviews by "The NZDream "blog
Mostly I write poetry and memoir, but also an essayist and emotional literacy/mindfulness writer/teacher, so everything around those topics. I do write some fiction and short stories too, and I co-write with my husband on some projects - we work together a lot.
How long have you been writing?
For decades but seriously for 25 yrs
Do you have any published books or articles? Tell me a bit about these and what publishing route you took.
Yes, I have published about 15 books over that time, both traditionally and self-publishing, also online essays and poetry in various formats and websites. I am always exploring more new ones and lockdown has opened up a lot more possibilities and contacts.
Did you use an editor? If so, who?
With some books, yes I had a professional editor, but nowadays I mostly self-edit, but I do get friends to read my books before I publish them - mostly retired teachers so pretty persnickety markers too.
Did you use a book formatter and cover designer?
I mostly used Kindle and my husband does all our book covers - he is really creative and inventive and I love his ideas too- the books traditionally published were all done by the publishing house though.
Did you self-publish or get traditionally published? How did this go for you?
Both and both have their pros and cons. Nowadays I like to self-publish as I can write exactly what I want to and how.
How do you market your work and promote your brand? (Include links) I have a website Wisdom and mindfulness with Sylvia Clare but I don't use this nearly enough, also an author's page on amazon Amazon.co.uk: Sylvia Clare: Books, Biography, Blogs, Audiobooks, Kindle
What social media and writing platforms would you recommend?
I do use Facebook but mostly use medium.com and Quora to write responses to answers and thus get people to recognize my name and brand through my topics and responses. Do you use an agent?
Do you use paid advertising? If so, what?
What inspires you most to write?
My own life experiences, life itself - some muse within me that compels me to write pretty much every day. I never leave home without a notebook - many poems come flowing naturally out of snippets and moments.
What do you do to help with writer's block?
I don't get it - I have ADHD so am always bursting with ideas and work that needs writing up somewhere. essays started which need finishing.
How do you plan your writing and start?
I write endless titles and headings of ideas that come to me - all the time. Brainstorms for these then follow, and this may then get left for a considerable amount of time. When I am ready to complete a project, whatever length, I then get my husband to listen to my ideas - we do this together actually, then organize properly, then do the full first draft and then revise. I try to leave a space between each stage so that I can see what I have written with fresh eyes and objectively, clearly. Leaving a break between each stage makes it feel less personal as a piece of writing, it is a different mindset doing the editing and redrafting than the one who wrote or had the initial idea.. That way I find I'm able to edit pretty well- also I like to read everything out loud to myself and or to my husband too. It works well to hear what you have written as an editing layer. Is writing your full-time job? If not, what else do you do? I am retired as a teacher, but I do still run mindfulness courses - mostly online at present, as specialized for ADHD and PTSD. I teach for the Plum Village Thich Nhat Hanh community in UK and this also informs areas of my writing. I write every day pretty much and I just decided to take an MA in creative writing for fun- more writing, of course.
What are you working on at the moment? A re-write of one of my parenting emotional intelligence mindfulness books - it is out of print but still relevant so needed updating. I am doing this with my son, who is also a psychologist. I am also nearing the end of a traveling series. I invented this game decades ago called traveling the alphabet, which then meant only traveling to one country for each letter of the alphabet, but then I opened it up to emotional traveling and spiritual traveling, etc. So I have completed the emotional traveling volume of memoir essays, am about to complete the spiritual traveling which should be published next year, and then will finish off the geographical version. Both these books will hopefully be online sometime next year.
What is your target audience?
Anyone and everyone who is interested in my themes. Mindfulness and compassion, love and relationships, emotional literacy, neuro-divergent/ ADHD, and surviving child abuse, narcissistic personality disorder, developing a personal spiritual approach to life.
How long does it take you to write a book?
It varies, a few weeks to a few years - depending on what it is about, how long, how much emotional investment I have in it, thus how much of a burnout is it? My main memoir, No Visible Injuries, took me months to get over energetically but other books stimulate me and excite me so I am energized by them.
When did you first discover you enjoyed writing?
In my 30s I started penning poems, though they were terrible. I kind of knew I would be a writer when I was younger but was rather ridiculed for it at school and by friends even later on. Then I went to a writing course in my late thirties and my then-boyfriend ridiculed me for it. Then I had this profound and compelling dream/ vision which said I would get published and I must write. I ended that relationship soon after and got a four-book publishing contract about a year later.
What is your writing schedule look like? Most days, the first thing I check on stats and sales, etc. see what is being read online, do some more promotional stuff. Then I pick the target for that day and write 3 - 4 hours on that book or article/ essay. I spend a lot of time gardening too, which is also my mindfulness and gestating time. Walking in the countryside around our home also does this for me. My husband and I like to walk through the open countryside or down along our local beaches. I also swim all year round and this can be a source of many poems as well as a time for reflecting on directions for certain pieces of writing.
What does your family think about your writing?
Different people like different things - my psychologist son likes my parenting books and is keen to help get the old version updated - my cousin read some of my memoirs and said how much it brought our family to life for her but it was also painful to read in places, my husband likes it all, and both my daughters-in-law also like some of it a great deal, I'm estranged from other family members (with good reason) and that is a large part of that I have written about.
What do you do when you are not writing?
I meditate, garden endlessly, swim in our local sea all year round, support people, and run a sangha for Plum Village and also teach Plum Village mindfulness courses about twice a year. I am also a beekeeper though this is seasonal. Very busy in early summer with swarming management and such like. I love working closely with nature.
Where do you get information and ideas for your writing? Mostly my own life and experiences, my own interests and observations, but every day is rich of full possibilities for writing about. I like to write poems that describe moments of pure joy and these happen every day for me since I took up mindfulness.
What do you think makes a good story? Apart from beginning middle and end, but not necessarily in that order - an arc that includes a significant change or growth in the main character. This is why I like a good memoir. Life transitions are important for us all. We can all relate to how life knocks us hard and how we respond is what matters. How has this story helped other people? That is the most important thing for me. I give most of my royalties to an anti-slavery charity to help others that way, too. I only keep enough to cover paper ink and machines to write on. My greatest joys for my writing are less about how many sales I make and more about the letters and tweets I get from people who say how much my / our books turned their lives around. That is my aim in life and that is my joy too.