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5 Writers Discuss the Writing Life

As DEATH AT THE DAY LILY CAFE, the second in the Rosalie Hart mystery series, reaches publication, I have been reflecting on the path I followed to getting published. Yes, I found a terrific agent and fell into the hands of a talented editor at Minotaur, but the first step was joining a critique group long ago.


Column by Wendy Sand Eckel, author of DEATH AT THE DAY LILY
(July 26, 2016, Minotaur Books). MURDER AT BARCLAY MEADOW,
the first in the Rosalie Hart mystery series set on Maryland’s Eastern Shore,

was published by Minotaur in July 2015. A member of the Mystery Writers
of America, Sisters in Crime, and the International Association of Crime
Writers, she has degrees in criminology and social work and a passion
for words and their nuanced meanings. Find out more at

An eclectic talented group of writers, we’ve been at it for over fifteen years. We’ve worked hard and can now each claim a published work or an Emmy winning documentary. Our mark of a good meeting is shared ideas, a dose of humility, wine, followed by gut-aching belly laughs.

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As part of my reflection, I’ve asked my fellow writers to do the same.

Have you always been a writer?

Terese Schlachter: Since I can remember. I recall writing an account of Thanksgiving dinner from the perspective of the dog under the table. My teacher gave me an A++

Jon Coile: Since I learned to write block letters in pencil.

Susan Moger: Even before I knew the alphabet I drew wavy lines on a page and read the ‘book’ to my mother.

Denny Kleppick: Started with reading. In grade school at a military academy run by Catholic Nuns, where we were taught marching and military discipline, a fertile imagination was a serious requirement for mental survival.

Me: I started writing stories when I was young. Short stories and illustrated comics. My mother saved them. I think mainly because as a child I loved to play with Barbies. I was partial to the flight attendant outfit and the one with the vacuum. With an advanced degree under her belt, I think she was looking for other activities to encourage.

What is your writing process? Do you outline or shoot from the hip?

Terese: First I vacuum the house. Then there’s laundry, dishes, eyebrow plucking ... anything to put it off. Eventually, it’s ass-in-chair. Think Nicholas Cage in the opening of ‘Adaptation.’ Maybe another cup of coffee…

Jon: I pay attention to life. Then I write journals and tell snippets of the story to people to see how they respond. Then when it come to writing it, the story comes alive.

Susan: I am a recent convert to outlining. I like to write the last scene or chapter at about the mid-point so I have a goal to work toward.

Denny: A mix. I let an idea/dialogue ferment in my head until it’s ready to be written. I have a solid idea of the beginning and end, but the middle is an adventure. For me, writing a book that is character driven is like swimming with a concrete block on my chest.

Me: Shoot from the hip and let the characters run with the story.

Where do you write?

Terese: Wherever my Rhodesian Ridgebacks are. Sometime I’m propped up in bed because that’s where they fit. They’re big dogs. It saves on the heat bill.

Jon: Kitchen table. Lots of space to spread out. No distractions other than the salt and pepper shaker.

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Susan: Stand up desk with seated breaks. I use a NEO. No Internet distractions!

Denny: A desk full of sticky notes, napkins, and other scraps of paper. What I’m thinking has a short life span. I like a few hours of quiet to think and read, in order to produce an initial book. I write in a room with windows so I can stare into the distance while thoughts scramble by.

Me: Every room in the house. Requirements are at least one cat, a place to prop my feet, and a big mug of coffee. I make a nest and write with my computer on my lap.

Do you have advice for other writers?

Terese: The most intimidating thing you can encounter is a blank page. If it scares you, go run the vacuum. Then sit down.

Jon: If you have a story to tell, just start telling it. No better advice than just start writing, and writing, and writing, and writing ...

Susan: Find a character you feel compelled to write about and let him or her tell you a story. Then rewrite it! And along the way find a trusted reader to share your writing with.

Denny: In its own way, writing fiction is very schizophrenic, like multiple personalities striving to be heard. It’s a question of time—time to listen, time to write. They won’t shut up until they see themselves on paper, so just find time to do it.

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Me: Allow yourself to write badly. Just plow on through. You can go back to it later. And most importantly, listen to what others have to say about your writing. There are pearls of wisdom for you to seize.

Like I said, an eclectic bunch but whatever they do, it seems to be working. For more questions/answers, check out my website.


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